MANCHESTER, England — There’s nothing like a home game against Burnley to get Manchester City scoring. Sean Dyche’s side turned up at the Etihad Stadium having lost their last five visits by an aggregate score of 22-1, and even with City struggling for goals in the Premier League, they still recorded another 5-0 win thanks, in part, to a Riyad Mahrez hat-trick.
Each of Burnley’s last four trips to City have now ended in 5-0 defeats, only the second time that has happened in the history of the Football League. It didn’t even seem to matter that City kicked off having managed just 10 league goals — their lowest tally from their first eight games for 14 years.
Burnley were not helped by injuries to England goalkeeper Nick Pope and three of their four senior central midfielders, but City were still able to cash in on their dominance and for the first time since September, they scored more than once in a league game.
It could have been worse for Burnley, who benefited from VAR ruling out two more goals — Kevin De Bruyne, who got two assists, also hit the inside of the post. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola will hope it can trigger a purple patch for his goalscorers ahead of their next two home games against Fulham and West Brom — two teams threatened with relegation because of leaky defences.
Burnley will be concerned about playing Championship football next season, too, having now lost six of their opening nine fixtures for the first time since 1981 when they were in English football’s third tier. City, meanwhile, can finally start looking up the table after a disappointing start. A gap of six points to leaders Liverpool — who earlier in the day drew 1-1 at Brighton — will not seem unassailable, particularly with a game in hand.
“It’s just one game,” said Guardiola. “We had a lot of chances in every game but today we were good and converted. The target until February is the Premier League. The goals are not important, we can win with bigger margins which is good, but I’m not expecting to win by lots all the time.”
The game was all but over after 20 minutes, as it was plenty of time for Mahrez to score twice. The first came at the end of a sweeping move involving Ferran Torres and Kevin De Bruyne and the second after he was found by a quick throw-in from Kyle Walker. Benjamin Mendy then got his first goal in English football just before half-time with a crisp volley at the back post after a run forward from left-back. After Ferran Torres had got the fourth, Mahrez got his third with a header from Phil Foden’s pinpoint cross. It was that kind of day.
Guardiola felt comfortable enough at the break to replace Rodri — only rested once this season — ahead of a brutal run of fixtures in December with nine games in three competitions. In other bright news, the City boss will hope to have Sergio Aguero back after the Argentinian was left out against Burnley given a minor knee problem picked up in training. Aguero has got nine goals in his last nine games against Burnley, but he wasn’t needed here.
Janusz Michallik heaps praise on Kevin De Bruyne after Man City thrash Burnley 5-0 at the Etihad.
It is a sign of City’s problems in front of goal that Mahrez is now their top scorer in the Premier League with four. They’ve got 15 league goals this season, with a third of them coming in Saturday’s 90-minute stroll against Burnley. Guardiola has been asking his players to be more “clinical,” and he could not have asked for much more than five goals from six shots on target. The trick now is to carry it on.
“It’s three points,” said Mahrez after his first City hat trick. “Obviously we are happy to score lots of goals and create lots of chances. We get the three points and keep going.
“Of course when you play on the front foot and don’t score in the game, you struggle and have frustration, but you have to keep working. We kept working, we will keep working, in training and in games to get our confidence back.
“It’s always good to score goals but most important was to win and create chances and score goals. We have to take it game by game.”
With Champions League qualification secured two games early, City can focus on finally getting their title challenge under way. Guardiola is close to having a fully fit squad and the goals are back. A visit from Burnley always seems to do the trick.