Gabriel Jesus

Gabriel Jesus scores as Manchester City hammer Burnley in masterclass

It was an afternoon that lent credence to the argument that the FA Cup at this stage should be seeded, sending Manchester City to test their skills at Barnet or Accrington, rather than entertain a Burnley side who, frankly, could have done without the trouble.

When half time came, the loudest cheer had been for the officials who took several minutes more than they might have done, trying to replace a snapped corner flag.

It was the only event which took this game remotely into the realms of the unexpected. None of which should obscure the sublimity. It is the way Manchester City’s players operate out of possession which can sometimes be overlooked. They always have players arriving.
They have an aggregate score of 28-0 in their last six matches and have regained that formidability which preceded the December blip.

‘We’ll see what happens in the next four, five, six games and see if we can catch them,’ Guardiola said of league leaders Liverpool, on Saturday night.

Their capacity to do so, while waging a challenge for three other trophies, is not in the remotest doubt. The depth of their squad is by far the greater of the two title challengers and this was a match which demonstrated it.

To all that City had in their autumn pomp is added Kevin de Bruyne, this game’s outstanding presence and one re-emerging as the team’s heartbeat. A title-winning force if ever there were one.

There was also divinity in the pass with which the excellent right back Danilo spotted Gabriel Jesus’ diagonal run, 23 minutes in, and located him.

The Brazilian promptly powered past defenders Kevin Long and James Tarkowski to despatch a low shot that goalkeeper Nick Pope could only turn in off his right boot.

It was the intense watchfulness of Jesus which took the eye. He was looking, plotting, his eyes everywhere, as he advanced into the space, on the left hand side of Burnley’s box, from where he took possession.

Kyle Walker was the one who struggled to provide the same impact. The full-back, restored to the side after a brief encounter with the bench in City’s rough patch, twice lost possession to Jeff Hendrick and came out second best in two aerial challenges before the game was 10 minutes old.

A wild challenge on Steven Defour, taken out by the defender’s trailing leg, saw him booked. Some managers would have demanded a red card, though Sean Dyche reasoned – wisely – that ‘if there’s a doubt, go yellow.’

There was very little else to trouble the City manager. Burnley had made seven changes to their team, ahead of Tuesday night’s trip to Old Trafford, and displayed no intent.

The defenders trotted slowly out from their own quarters when Pope had gathered the ball, offering no options to counter with meaning. The forward Matej Vydra was an isolated individual and even when offered a gilt-edged chance to score in the opening stages of the second half he couldn’t bury it.

Loitering on the ball as he brought it out of his own area, Danilo was burgled by the Czech who had only Ederson to beat as he advanced up on goal. He found the side netting. How dearly Burnley could use a semi-prolific striker.

Dyche says the lack of recruits so far this January does not concern him but here was another occasion when they did not muster a single shot on goal. Wood replaced Vydra just beyond the hour.

The result was beyond doubt within minutes of the miss. A flowing City advance saw Gundogan and de Bruyne shift the ball left to right, from where Bernardo Silva struck a shot which Pope could again only deflect into the net. De Bruyne put a gloss on the occasion with the afternoon’s outstanding passing exhibition: a 16-touch move, starting with goalkeeper Ederson, which concluded with Gundogan swivelling and laying right for de Bruyne to deliver a right-foot finish far to Pope’s right.

Burnley helped City to their fourth. De Bruyne was allowed a criminal amount of space to advance into the right hand side of the box, from where he delivered a hard low cross which was deflected in off Long’s knee.

Other clubs would have brought on the second tier players from such a commanding position but for City it was Sergio Aguero racing into proceedings, with Phil Foden, in the teeming rain.

It was he who converted the penalty to make it five, after Long had manhandled David Silva, another substitute, to prevent him reaching a ball Pope was slow to collect.

For the on-looking Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunar Solskjaer, here to scout Burnley, it was an object lesson in the work to be done to match City, while Guardiola will believe he can advance beyond the semi final which is his best return in this competition.

Burnley will just be relieved to return to the type of football that matters to them. ‘The bigger fight this season is definite the Premier League – staying in the Premier League,’ said Dyche. ‘No disrespect. It’s the priority of the club I work for.’

Photo Credits: courtesy

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