Manchester City, one man down, were victorious against Burnley at The Etihad stadium in their first game of 2017
City needed to bounce back after Liverpool beat them 1-0 two days ago, at Anfield. Liverpool stayed up in second place and the Blues fell down to fifth due to the defeat. The game followed a pattern of City conceding early and then struggling when put up against a pressing side. However, Liverpool drew with struggling Sunderland 2-2 (yes, Jermaine Defoe got two for those who practice the art of Fantasy Football), so Burnley offered a chance for City to catch up!
These were the kind of games that Pep Guardiola was told he wouldn’t be able to win before he came to England. Not necessarily home games against Burnley, but the games where City would have to play rough and knuckle down, instead of stroking the ball to one another and scoring delicious tap-ins. This game was feisty, and a battle that City came out on top in, showing Guardiola can hack it here.
Guardiola took a big risk by dropping Aguero, Silva, and Stones. Kolarov was moved to centre-back despite having a pretty poor game against Liverpool a couple of days ago, and Kelechi Iheanacho was given the nod upfront. Kolarov was excellent at centre-back alongside Otamendi which really seemed to pay off, and leaving Silva and Aguero on the bench meant that they were in fine form in the second half when they came on!
If this game was an overused meme that probably isn’t even funny anymore because it’s been so overused…
Oh, it was naughty! Everyone was leaving their foot in on challenges, and both sides were playing up to the referee. The crowd quite happily chanted at the referee making it known that they weren’t his number one fan, but to be fair to the referee, he didn’t actually have a bad game.
The tone was set on the 31st minute when Fernandinho came flying into a challenge on Guomundsson and was sent off for it. The challenge was two footed and late so worthy of a red card. City went down to ten men and it seemed to suit them better as they went on to play with a little more urgency. Obviously Fernandinho is that good at reading games that he knew he had to sacrifice himself to beat Burnley. He will miss the next four games through suspension after picking up his second red card of the season (third if you include his red in the Champions League).
STAT: Seven players have seen red cards this season for City, if we include retrospective bans: three for Fernandinho, two for Aguero, and one each for Nolito and Bravo.
STAT: Only Nolito’s sending off was funny. Who misses a headbutt?
I’ve waited so long for Clichy to score so I can use that subheading. So. Long.
Give Gael Clichy a yard of space and the goal-scoring machine will punish you instantly by scoring a right-footed drilled shot from outside the area. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Left back Clichy scored his first goal in approximately 3,000 years for the Blues which gave them the lead.
Play to the Whistle!
City went 2-0 up via Sergio Aguero in quite a strange fashion. Raheem Sterling had latched onto a de Bruyne through ball, and then tripped himself up as the keeper came rushing out. Many would have stopped and crowded the referee for a penalty, but not Aguero. The ball trickled away to an impossible angle. With two men on the goal-line, Sergio Aguero managed to score from the tightest angles in off the near post. Unfortunately, you don’t get double points on Fantasy Football for scoring sick goals.
(Speaking of playing to the whistle, I feel now would be a good time to point out that Burnley has the most disgusting whistling landmark in the history of the world: The Singing Ringing Tree.)
Squeaky Bum Time
It all got a little tense six minutes after Aguero’s goal however, as ex-City youth captain Ben Mee scored for Burnley! The goal was literally the worst goal I’ve seen in my entire life, but they all count. Burnley had a corner which was whipped in and all 21 men in the box went for the ball. Bravo came out but missed the ball — mainly because he’s 4’3” — and Ben Mee headed the ball onto the crossbar, over the line, and back out. Then Bravo caught the ball but someone headed it out of his hands and over the line again. Maths would state that Burnley scored a double goal and this should have been an equaliser. Right?
In all seriousness, there was a hint of handball in there somewhere before the goal, that left the stadium incensed. I personally think the goal was perfectly legitimate, but that’s probably just because I don’t want to watch any more replays of this terrible Burnley-esque goal.
With three shots on target each, and eleven fouls each, this game wasn’t a beautiful masterpiece, but it was a vital scruffy win that is important to any top team. These are the games you have to win if you want to win the league. Going into the new year, are City still in with a chance of winning the title? Anything can happen in the Premier League.