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Manchester City

Jesus rises - but Man City need to start scaring teams again if they are to catch Liverpool

9:36 am AEDT 4/12/19
Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Burnley vs Man City
The Brazilian shone in Sergio Aguero's absence but Guardiola's charges need their fear factor back if they are to get into the Reds' heads

If Manchester City are to put a winning run together and catch Liverpool, they need to start scaring opponents again.

For two title-winning seasons, a considerable amount of teams were beaten before kick-off - just hoping to keep the score respectable and move onto the next game.

City have lost some of that fear factor.

That’s why newly-promoted Norwich played with courage and organisation and pulled off a shock victory. It’s why Wolves travelled to the Etihad with a plan and stunned the champions. And it’s why Newcastle went into the final minutes on Saturday believing they could snatch a point and duly did so with a late Jonjo Shelvey strike.

Burnley had the same idea that they could disrupt Pep Guardiola’s side. And they were torn apart by City’s brilliance.

This was an old-school City performance where their quality was far too much for a Burnley side that could only offer hard work and physicality in response. City simply passed it around them.

Kevin De Bruyne was back to being the conductor-in-chief, floating around the pitch into dangerous positions and firing over crosses that are almost impossible to defend.

Alongside him, Bernardo Silva fizzed around with menace, offering the sort of threat that made him such a key player in last season’s domestic treble.

His pinpoint cross for the second goal should give him back some of the confidence that has taken a dip since the controversy surrounding his tweet to Benjamin Mendy.

But key to the destruction was Gabriel Jesus, who led the line impressively and made Sergio Aguero’s absence inconsequential.

City were on top for the opening 20 minutes but failed to find an opening despite missing chances through Bernardo Silva and having a Jesus flick correctly ruled out for offside.

Jesus had stuttered over another chance afterwards but made no mistake with a brilliant opener in the 24th minute.

The Brazilian found space out wide, cut inside and curled a delightful 20-yard strike out of reach of Nick Pope.

It was his first goal in eight games and took the pressure off him - and the rest of the City team.

Pope made brilliant saves from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo again before Jesus killed off the game early in the second half.

His movement in the box was too much for Burnley’s statuesque central defenders and he volleyed home Bernardo Silva’s whipped-in cross.

But it was not just in the final third that City dominated.

Sean Dyche’s plan - as ever - was try to bully the visitors with their physicality on a sub-zero Lancashire night. 

Scything tackles from Jeff Hendrick and James Tarkowski on David Silva just saw the Spaniard get up and run at them again.

Long balls to Chris Wood were dealt with by a battling Nicolas Otamendi.

And any danger through the midfield was dealt with by the cleverness and solidity of Rodri.

The former Atletico Madrid midfielder has had a mixed time since his club record signing in the summer but this was his most commanding performance yet.

He shut down any Clarets threat and capped a great night with a stunning strike of his own for City’s third.

Riyad Mahrez added a brilliant fourth, although City blotted their evening when they conceded a Robbie Brady consolation in the 89th minute.

It’s now eight games since City have kept a clean sheet but it shouldn’t detract from a night when they sent a reminder to the rest of the Premier League. 

They've shown that they can bounce back from a slump and be terrifyingly clinical when they're firing on all cylinders. 

If there's one team that can get into Liverpool's heads in the title race, it's this one. The charge starts here.