So FA Cup glory for Burnley will have to wait for another season. A third round draw away to Manchester City represents just about the toughest draw which any team could be offered, and due to the indiscriminate and random nature of the cup draw; it was Burnley who were obliged to fulfil this fixture.
It should be stated from the outset that Burnley did little wrong throughout the course of the game, particularly during a first half in which they pressed and harried City sufficiently to induce a disjointed display from the hosts, culminating in a howler from John Stones which allowed Ashley Barnes the opportunity to put the Clarets ahead, a lead they would hold on to at the break.
City were always going to respond vigorously to Burnley’s impertinence and having no doubt spent the interval on the receiving end of a Guardiola ear-bashing, they re-started with stiffened resolve. It then became a question of Burnley circling the wagons and trying to repel the incessant waves of attacks. They held on for a while, but eventually they were forced to yield.
Depending on one’s point of view, the equaliser was either a piece of enterprising quick thinking or dubious low cunning, when the match referee allowed the ball to be slipped through to Sergio Aguero, whilst Burnley were still constructing their defensive wall and waiting for the whistle.
Aguero’s fellow countrymen pulled the same stunt in that famous World Cup tie against England in 1998. It felt as dodgy a move yesterday as it did twenty years ago.
The second goal followed almost immediately, with no complaints this time. A clever back-heel allowing Aguero to skip around Nick Pope and slot the ball into the corner of the net.
The big screen at the Etihad informed all who were watching that Aguero had scored five of City’s last nine goals against Burnley. Is it too much to ask that City sell him before the teams meet at Turf Moor early next month?
Incidentally, the same screen also displayed a statistic which claimed that Burnley hadn’t won at either of Manchester City’s homes at any time in the last fifty-five years. This claim conveniently ignores Colin Waldron’s header which won the 1973 Charity Shield at Maine Road – just saying!
Leroy Sane soon made the score 3-1 and by the time Nick Pope took leave of his penalty area – and his senses – to allow Mendy to add a fourth, the game was over as a contest.
Burnley have played against City twice this season and both times it has been sheer hell. Yes, there is a great deal of style, not to say beauty, in the way the Champions-elect go about their play, but the abiding image is of the unremitting, remorseless pressure which they apply. They systematically probe a defence for the merest hint of a weakness and when one is identified they strike swiftly and decisively.
All-in-all, 2018 has started poorly for the Clarets, with yesterday’s mauling coming after Liverpool’s sickening stoppage-time winner on New Years’ Day. Responding to these setbacks will be the strongest test yet of Burnley’s justifiably famed resilience.
Perhaps the squad needs an infusion of new blood in the transfer window, nothing dramatic, just a couple of new faces to freshen things up and maybe a tweak or two in the starting line-up?
Big Sam Vokes had a strong game yesterday, as did Matt Lowton. It could well now be the time for those two to take a more prominent role as the Clarets attempt to put four wheels back on their presently derailed wagon.
This match review was written on behalf of Clarets Mad by regular contributor, uber Burnley fan Dave Thornley (TEC.)