Manchester City’s Premier League champions may be nearing an end but they are determined to make Liverpool wait.
Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez both scored twice as Manchester City thrashed Burnley to ensure Liverpool will have to wait a little longer to wrap up the Premier League title.
Three first-half goals saw City on their way to the most comfortable of wins at Etihad Stadium, with Foden’s superb long-range strike breaking the deadlock before Mahrez’s double just before the break.
The Algerian’s fine solo effort made it 2-0 before he added another from the spot after Ben Mee fouled Sergio Aguero, with the penalty being awarded by the video assistant referee.
It was all too easy for City against a Burnley side that did not name their full complement of substitutes for their first game since the Premier League restarted behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Foden played a starring role in the rout, starting the move that saw Bernardo Silva tee up David Silva to make it 4-0 soon after the break, and then adding a fifth himself after Gabriel Jesus helped on a David Silva cross.
By then the evening was a stroll for Pep Guardiola’s side, who are now 20 points behind the leaders with eight league games remaining.
If the defending champions had dropped points against the Clarets, a win for Liverpool against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday would have seen them officially take City’s crown.
Instead, Jurgen Klopp’s side must beat the Eagles and then rely on City dropping points against Chelsea on Thursday if they are to clinch the title before they visit Etihad Stadium on 2 July.
Burnley issued a statement during the game condemning the actions of those responsible after a plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the ground shortly after kick-off.
Both sets of players had taken a knee before the game started in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Burnley have now lost 5-0 on their past three visits to Manchester City in all competitions, but this defeat could have been even worse.
The Clarets did not manage an effort at goal until Dwight McNeil lashed a free-kick into the empty stand behind Ederson’s goal after 63 minutes, and that was the only time they came close to threatening a reply.
There were mitigating circumstances for Burnley boss Sean Dyche, however.
A trip to this part of Manchester is hard enough without the contract issues and injuries which meant he could not fill his bench in his side’s first game after their enforced three-month break.
First-choice strikers Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood were absent through injury, while Jeff Hendrick, Aaron Lennon, Phil Bardsley, and former England goalkeeper Joe Hart are all free agents from the end of June and were not considered for selection.
It meant that, while City had players of the calibre of Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling among their substitutes, the Clarets named two untried youngsters in Max Thompson and Bobby Thomas, and two keepers – Lukas Jensen and Bailey Peacock-Farrell – among their replacements.
Before their season was stopped, Burnley were on a seven-game unbeaten run that had taken them to the fringes of the race for Europe. Dyche’s mission now is to try to regain some of that momentum in the next few weeks.
Burnley will now host Watford on Thursday while Manchester City play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge later the same evening (20:15).