Gudmundsson equaliser stuns wasteful City after Guardiola names six subs
BURNLEY, England -- Three points on Burnley 1-1 Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon
1. City's title stroll stumbles at Turf Moor
This will only go down as the smallest blip in Manchester City's cruise to the title, but they were deservedly pegged back here by an energetic Burnley.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson's late equaliser, cancelling out a marvellous opener from Danilo, earned the hosts a point and although City could point to a number of missed chances -- most glaringly from Raheem Sterling -- they did not do enough to win.
The opening spell was stop-start but when Danilo's goal arrived it was a beauty. Sean Dyche will be unhappy that the left-back was given so much space to size up a 25-yard shot after a short corner was worked to him; there was still so much to do, though, and Danilo's execution was breathtaking. His curling, sweetly struck right-footer gave Nick Pope no chance and the leaders had their breakthrough.
For all their endeavour, Burnley had not mustered a shot, but their first serious effort almost brought an equaliser. It took a brilliant one-handed stop from Ederson, plunging to his left, to stop Ben Mee volleying them level shortly after the half-hour; Mee then headed a corner narrowly wide. Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero both forced saves from Pope before the break and at that point it felt City might still need another goal.
Aguero should have made it two just after the break but took too many touches and his shot was deflected wide. Then Sterling, found unselfishly by Aguero, shot over and Danilo was denied a second stunning goal by Pope's flying tip-over.
As in the first half, Burnley barely threatened before testing Ederson out of the blue. His tip on to the woodwork from Aaron Lennon, after a sweeping counter-attack, with 21 minutes left was the best stop of the afternoon. Seconds later Sterling, tapping Kyle Walker's centre wide of an unattended goal at the far post, made not only the afternoon's most glaring miss but perhaps that of the entire season.
He was punished clinically by Gudmundsson, who caught Walker napping and half-volleyed crisply home at the far post after anticipating a Matt Lowton ball from the right. It was as much as Burnley merited.
2. Guardiola baffles with depleted bench
City arrived at Turf Moor a man light and what Guardiola sought to achieve from that is anyone's guess. He named just six substitutes and it did not take a leap of the imagination to see a correlation with the past week's events.
Guardiola feels, perhaps justifiably, that City's players are not being given enough protection from dangerous challenges and the tackle from Cardiff's Joe Bennett on Leroy Sane -- which will keep the forward out for six weeks -- sparked a debate that has rumbled ever since. West Brom's Matt Phillips was lucky to get away with a similarly poor tackle on Brahim Diaz in midweek and Guardiola, who failed in an effort to replace Sane with Riyad Mahrez on deadline day, clearly decided the time was right to make a point.
It is possible to agree with the City manager's views on career-threatening fouls, while thinking his actions here were well out of touch with reality. He claimed Aymeric Laporte was not ready to be involved in back-to-back games so soon after joining from Athletic Bilbao; less credibly he said there was no chance to promote a youngster from the club's burgeoning development squad as they had played on Friday.
That is nonsense. For one thing, the very fact of taking a place on the first-team bench can be huge for a young player's development even if they stand little chance of getting on the pitch; for another, the numbers simply do not add up. Seven City first-team players are sidelined through injury, if we include the youngster Phil Foden. Burnley were deprived of eight senior squad members for this one -- the league's joint-highest tally -- and that did not stop Dyche naming a full set of replacements even if one was Aiden O'Neill, a 19-year-old recently recalled from a loan at Fleetwood.
It does not wash; Guardiola could have given somebody an opportunity had he wanted to. On the pitch there was certainly little evidence City were stretched to the limit. Their moment of magic came from Danilo, effectively the third-choice left-back this season, while they were able to create numerous other chances and survive a patchy contribution from Bernardo Silva. Gudmundsson's goal owed entirely to inattention from a £53 million defender. If Guardiola wished to demonstrate the risks of lax officiating, this was the least elegant of ways to achieve it.
3. Battling Burnley deserved a point
Burnley deserved this point for their attitude as much as their application. Dyche's side must have been the last opponents Guardiola would have liked to face this weekend.
Although far from dirty, they will leave you bruised, nursing aches and pains back in the dressing room. They have added some guile to their approach this season but here they were unashamedly route one and it made for a stark clash of styles. In refreshing contrast to many of their peers, Burnley looked to attack City, with Dyche naming Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes up front together in the "big man/big man" partnership. Lennon was also drafted in for his first start and from the outset it was clear they would seek to put City under pressure their own way.
When Vokes, chasing Kompany down after he took a short pass from Ederson, charged the ball out for a goal kick it was clear City would have to earn the right to do things on their terms. There was nothing sophisticated about Burnley's approach, looking for flick-ons and seeking to feed their wide men quickly, but a lack of technical control should not be confused with negativity and Dyche's men gave it a go.
When Ederson saved so thrillingly from Lennon there was a sense that their best chance to equalise had gone. Burnley rode their luck at times in the second half and City found spaces that, to their cost, they failed to exploit. But the home side kept the energy up, kept committing men forward when they could, and were rewarded for showing the never-say die spirit that has characterised Dyche's reign.
Before this match they had gone eight league games without a win and their early season lustre appeared to have faded. That run has been extended to nine but this, judging by the cheers that reverberated at full-time, was akin to a victory.
Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.