Pep Guardiola has always preached how pleasant it is having silverware in the cabinet by March. Clearly he would do, given Manchester City have lifted the last three Carabao Cup titles. They even block book a Wembley hotel these days.
Yet even allowing for his reverence of the least important trophy on offer, even allowing for the fact that he likens Burnley to having your wisdom teeth whipped out without anaesthetic, this was – to borrow his own parlance – so, so strong.
Particularly strong with a hazardous visit to Leeds United on the horizon, where tired legs are dead legs. The desire to progress in this competition is always weighted against the need to give star players a night off and the former won overwhelmingly before City did themselves, Raheem Sterling and Ferran Torres taking the plaudits, with young Cole Palmer very encouraging on debut.
Raheem Sterling found the net twice in Manchester City’s 3-0 Carabao cup win over Burnley
He has now scored the most goals out of any player across all competitions since last season
Sterling also registered an assist for Ferran Torres’s 65th minute goal for Man City
There was definitely more zip to City, a product of a rocket delivered by their manager after the timid surrender against Leicester City on Sunday. A response was demanded because, for all the hardship of a minimal pre-season and injury problems, shipping five goals at home for the first time in 17 years is wholly unacceptable for a club that continues to afford significant financial backing in the search for more trophies.
‘The team (selection) was for the rhythm,’ Guardiola said. ‘It was a good response. This competition is special for us. After our result against Leicester it was important to win.’
Largely emphatically as well. Burnley might have been on the canvas long before Sterling’s 35th-minute opener had it not been for Bailey Peacock-Farrell in goal. The young goalkeeper completed a string of fine saves, stopping on Sterling effort from squirming inside his near post before diving low with a strong right arm to deny a forceful drive across his body.
Torres was also the one who set up Sterling’s second four minutes after the half-time break
Burnley manager Sean Dyche’s complaints from the touchline soundtracked the evening
Pressure told eventually, however, and Sterling was up and running for the season, lashing home with vengeance, at the end of a move that owed much to Aymeric Laporte’s measured distribution from the back and then Benjamin Mendy’s punchy first-time cross. That was the sort of delivery Mendy needs to continue producing on a more regular basis given Guardiola wants reinforcements in the left-back area.
Result: 3-0 Manchester City
Manchester City: Steffen, Walker, Fernandinho (C), Laporte, Mendy, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Torres, Mahrez, Sterling, Palmer.
Substitutes: Ederson, Ake, Bernardo, Foden, Delap, Doyle, Harwood-Bellis.
Goals: Sterling and Torres
Burnley: Peacock-Farrell, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Taylor, McNeil, Westwood, Brownhill, Pieters, Vydra
Substitutes: Wood, Norris, Bardsley, Dunne, Benson, Goodridge, Driscoll-Glennon
Yet for all the positivity, the 18-year-old midfielder Palmer following Liam Delap’s lead from last week by making an impression on his debut, Burnley felt they should have been awarded at least one penalty. With no VAR to fall back on, Andy Madley turned down Charlie Taylor’s appeal when going over Fernandinho’s challenge and similar as Dwight McNeil bumped into Kyle Walker.
‘I continuingly scratch my head about penalties and why we don’t get them,’ Sean Dyche said. ‘They talk about contact… when our players get contact it’s never enough.’
Dyche’s complaints from the touchline soundtracked the evening, although buoyed by the return of Ashley Barnes – out since New Year’s Day – and James Tarkowski, the latter of persistent interest from Leicester.
Palmer was very composed, capable of mixing it with Burnley. He twice went close as he kept up with the physicality in midfield, linking play behind Sterling, while Torres volleyed over an outrageous clipped throughball courtesy of Kevin De Bruyne. This was the most promising display Torres has conjured since a summer move from Valencia, a night he could accelerate in behind, the sight of which should fill Guardiola with hope of an attacking strategy when required.
It was Torres who set up Sterling’s second four minutes after the break, squaring intelligently for a tap in. Palmer had turned over possession in midfield, leaving De Bruyne to rampage towards goal and find Torres. A classic City counter and one that has been lesser spotted in recent times. Torres swept in his first goal for the club with 25 minutes left, unrushed after breaching the last line.
Sterling left Turf Moor furious, knowing he should have collected another match ball for the growing collection in his Knutsford mansion, only to be denied by Peacock-Farrell when through again. Guardiola wants to get through the international break unscathed and maybe the seniors running for him again last night will serve as important momentum when they encounter Marcelo Bielsa’s Murderball at Elland Road on Saturday.
Sterling left Turf Moor furious after being denied the chance to collect another match ball
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