BURNLEY, United Kingdom, Apr 28 – Sergio Aguero’s 20th Premier League goal of the season left Manchester City just two wins from the title after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor on Sunday.
Aguero, who has now scored nine times in his past eight appearances against Burnley, struck in the 63rd minute, with a shot that only just crossed the line despite the best efforts of defender Matt Lowton to keep it out, although goal-line technology was needed to award the goal.
The win takes City on to 92 points, one ahead of Liverpool, with two games to play.
Victories at home to Leicester a week on Monday, and away at Brighton the following Sunday will see Pep Guardiola’s side retain their English title.
For the first time in months, City’s elimination from the Champions League means they will crucially have a free midweek to prepare for those key matches.
By contrast, Liverpool must travel to Newcastle next weekend, either side of the two legs of their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, before hosting Wolves on May 12.
City have now won 12 consecutive Premier League games but they had to work to maintain their composure against the Clarets.
– Heaton frustrates City –
Guardiola’s side enjoyed the bulk of possession, but found creating clear chances difficult. When they did, Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton was in excellent form.
Heaton, a former Manchester United reserve, made two excellent saves in the opening minutes of the second half. He was alert at his near post to beat away Aguero’s shot, after Raheem Sterling’s neat flick had created the opening, before beating out Bernardo Silva’s snap shot at the end of a goalmouth scramble.
Sean Dyche’s side knew before kick-off they were mathematically certain of Premier League survival, yet played as if they too were fighting for the title.
Burnley even caused City the occasional first-half problem.
Jack Cork chested down a ball on the edge of the penalty area and then hit a shot that struck visiting captain Vincent Kompany full in the face.
As the home fans appealed for handball and screamed for a penalty, referee Paul Tierney put his whistle to his lips as if considering awarding one. Television replays, though, showed he was right not to.
The Clarets’ best opening fell to Chris Wood, who was left to rue a poor first touch that denied him his big moment.
Played through by Jeff Hendrick, the New Zealand forward allowed the ball to squirt away, and Ederson was bravely out at his feet to smother.
At times, City’s frustration threatened to boil over.
In the closing moments of the first half, Aguero over-hit a pass down the left for Leroy Sane, resulting in the ball rolling out of play, and the German responded by turning to his team-mate and flinging his arms out in despair.
Eventually, though, City’s patience was rewarded. Bernardo Silva’s low ball into the middle found Aguero, who, with his back to goal and minimal space to work with, managed to fashion a shot that beat Heaton.
Lowton, on the line, looked to have blocked the shot with his chest, but the ball looped up and just crossed the line before he could recover to clear it.
If City were hoping that goal would provide the platform for a comfortable final half-hour, though, they were to be disappointed as Burnley continued to give everything.
Few players were more committed than Burnley’s Ben Mee, the boyhood City fan who used to captain their youth team.
He produced an extraordinary goal-line clearance to deny the visitors a second goal, stretching to hook the ball clear after substitute Gabriel Jesus collected Kyle Walker’s crossfield pass, and had gone round Heaton to shoot towards what he thought was an empty net.
After that, City were content to run down the clock as they kept their cool to leave their northwest rivals with all three points.