BURNLEY, United Kingdom, Feb 3 – An extraordinary miss by Raheem Sterling proved the turning point as Burnley recovered to snatch a draw against runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City 1-1 at Turf Moor on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s team, leading from Danilo’s first half goal, looked well in control but Sterling’s huge error 20 minutes from time offered a lifeline and renewed belief to the home side.
After 82 minutes, Matt Lowton’s deep cross from the right allowed Johann Berg Gudmundsson to ghost past the City backline and score with a left-foot volley from six yards.
It is just the fourth time City have dropped points in the Premier League this season, but they still enjoy a commanding 16-point lead over Manchester United, who host Huddersfield later on Saturday.
Burnley showed great character and organisation in their defending from the start but, when they made an error, City punished it clinically.
A quickly-taken 22nd minute Kevin De Bruyne corner found Bernardo Silva who, in turn, moved the ball on to Danilo, who had been left in far too much space outside the Burnley area.
The full-back carried the ball to the edge of the area before curling an unstoppable 20-yard, right-foot shot into the far corner.
The lead was just about merited for a City side that came to Turf Moor without seven injured first team players and with Guardiola naming just six substitutes.
– Small bench –
The City manager claimed he had not wanted to deny youngsters playing in a Friday night elite development squad fixture in order just to sit on the first-team bench.
But Guardiola’s decision was also interpreted as a gesture in response to his recent complaints that his players are not receiving enough protection from referees, leading to a long injury list at the Etihad, as well as City’s failure to land Riyad Mahrez from Leicester before Wednesday’s transfer deadline.
City still had enough talent on display and, after taking the lead, Sterling cut into the box and shot firmly into Pope’s body before the England forward worked a clever one-two with Ilkay Gundogan that almost opened up another chance.
Burnley, seeking to end a worrying run of eight league games without victory, responded well to going behind, however, and created their best opening after 31 minutes.
Jack Cork lobbed an inviting cross into the City area for captain Ben Mee to connect with a 12-yard volley which Ederson saved well and the Burnley defender also threatened when he rose to meet a corner from Gudmundsson and headed just wide.
But before the interval, De Bruyne’s terrific 25-yard shot was parried by Pope, with Sergio Aguero missing the follow-up, and Aguero wasted another opening, shooting straight at the keeper’s torso.
City were even more dominant after the restart with Gundogan and Sterling combining well to set up Aguero for a shot which the striker really should have converted, rather than see his strike hit the back of defender Lowton.
Gundogan saw a couple more chances blocked and, after 54 minutes, a selfless pass from Aguero set up the unmarked Sterling for a chance which he blasted over from six yards.
The chances kept coming with Danilo close to another goal from the edge of the area, denied only by Pope’s fingertip save.
Those misses might have proved costly when a Vincent Kompany error gifted the ball to Ashley Barnes and, three passes later, presented Aaron Lennon with the chance for a blistering shot which Ederson brilliantly tipped onto the bar.
Yet City’s run of squandered openings was about to grow, with Sterling the worst of the lot, somehow missing an open net from two yards as he steered Kyle Walker’s cross the wrong side of the post.
Moments later, the England forward was replaced by Guardiola and watched on in horror as City were pegged back.