Erling Haaland launches Manchester City to opening victory at Burnley



 Premier League

Erling Haaland launches Manchester City to opening victory at Burnley

This was billed as a box-office Premier League curtain raiser and did not disappoint. Manchester City arrived at Turf Moor as the champions of the past three seasons and left suggesting Pep Guardiola could well drive them to a record fourth consecutive crown.

Burnley, promoted as Championship winners, can be proud of giving City a contest and Vincent Kompany, who proved himself a serious managerial talent last season, will have learned much about his team.

In claiming the second tier competition by 20 points in a first English campaign, the Belgian attracted Tottenham’s interest, as Antonio Conte’s replacement, and suggested he may follow Guardiola one day into the hot seat at City, the side he captained with distinction for many of his 11 years playing there.

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Four of those were under Guardiola which added an intriguing sub-plot to this battle, though Kompany and the 52-year-old locked horns last season, when those in blue gave those in claret a 6-0 schooling in the FA Cup. Yet while the margin was narrower here, the treble-winners are firmly up and running.

City were ruthless. Kevin De Bruyne poked over a first corner from the right and the ball broke back to the Belgian, who chipped it to the far post where Rodri headed to Erling Haaland, whose finish came after four minutes.

“We’re champions of Europe, we know what we are,” sang delirious City fans, and already Burnley might have been in damage-limitation mode. But in front of a raucous home support, Kompany’s men pressed and Zeki Amdouni went over with Manuel Akanji challenging but Craig Pawson, the referee, was not interested.

Guardiola spoke of his players being at the “bottom of the mountain” again but their beginning suggested a hunger to remount it. De Bruyne is City’s barometer – if the playmaker is pulling strings as he can, then this formidable side are in sync, and his next showing was a curled left-foot delivery from which Haaland attempted a bicycle kick.

It missed, just as Luca Koleosho did when Burnley worked the ball expertly to the winger, who should have made Ederson save rather than plonking his effort over. Amdouni did manage to work the goalkeeper after leaving Nathan Aké trailing, forcing the Ederson to crouch low to gather.

Haaland curls in his second goal of the match during the first half at Turf Moor. Photograph: Nigel French/PA

Guardiola had given his new centre-back, Josko Gvardiol, a place on the bench, where he was accompanied by another fresh arrival, Mateo Kovacic, whose debut began after 24 minutes, in place of an injured De Bruyne – Guardiola later voicing concern. For a period City were disrupted, as suddenly Amdouni was bursting through and threatening Ederson’s goal – he overran the ball – and Lyle Foster was skipping along the left and serving up a cross begging for a colleague to gamble on and run onto.

Haaland – who else – showed what was required as City, again, showed no mercy before goal. Kyle Walker’s pullback to Julián Álvarez was fed to the Norwegian and he pinged the ball home off the bar.

This muted Burnley and gave their crowd an illustration of why the champions are so good, even though Guardiola, as is his fashion, strode off upbraiding Haaland for some misdemeanour, his anger shown by shoving away the camera that filmed this incident.

Burnley administered pretty touches and launched raids along the flanks, where Vitinho troubled Aké and Walker. But City were able to contain the hosts. Their next foray was a Haaland attempt that earned a corner, yet soon they were pushed back needing Ederson’s out-ball to the centre-forward once more.

There was definitely more of the aerial stuff on display from City than normal: Rodri rose at an Álvarez corner from the right and steered a header down into the turf and at goal. The last time Guardiola’s men played competitively they claimed the Champions League courtesy of the Spaniard’s winner and he decorated this contest, too, with his blend of smart holding play and schemer’s eye for any openings ahead. Álvarez could have used a touch of Rodri’s vision when scampering through and shooting wide as Rico Lewis, on the far side, was the far better option.

Burnley, when able, were a type of mini-City, harrying the opponent near goal, hoping to squeeze the ball back and create a chance. But always Ederson, Walker, Aké, Rodri and Akanji were too slick to be mugged this way.

Rodri smashed in a third that sealed the three points, which was an apt finale for City, who by the end had Gvardiol on the pitch for a bow in his new colours. Burnley, meanwhile, ended with Anass Zaroury being given a straight red card for a challenge on Walker after the referee had checked the pitchside monitor.


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