Pep’s men emerge out of the ti­tle dark­ness

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By STU­ART BREN­NAN

EV­ERY­ONE was wait­ing for the lights to go out on City’s ti­tle chal­lenge, once and for all.

But the Blues lit up Turf Moor with their own bril­liance to give no­tice that they are emerg­ing from the dark­ness of their re­cent flat form.

Gabriel Je­sus burst back into form with two top-qual­ity goals and the ex­cel­lent Ro­dri capped a near-per­fect mid­field dis­play with a stun­ning goal be­fore sub­sti­tute Riyad Mahrez capped a 4-1 win.

Best of all for City, it was three men whose right to wear the shirt has been called into ques­tion in re­cent weeks.

It is per­haps un­fair to sin­gle out in­di­vid­u­als as the Burn­ley ‘den­tists’ - as Pep Guardi­ola de­scribed them - had their own teeth pulled.

But Je­sus bril­liantly grabbed two goals af­ter a six-week fal­low spell which had seen his con­fi­dence hit the deck. And with mid­fielder Ro­dri boss­ing the game as well as ut­terly blunt­ing the home side’s at­tack­ing am­bi­tions, while Ni­co­las Ota­mendi fought Chris Wood to a stand­still, it was a big night for the men with the ques­tion marks.

It was clear Burn­ley would try any­thing to unset­tle the Blues, on and off the field.

The lights had gone out on City be­fore the game. They went into their dress­ing room to find it was in dark­ness due to a mys­te­ri­ous elec­tri­cal fault.

Given the scur­rilous ru­mours about Burn­ley en­sur­ing vis­it­ing teams are treated to cold wa­ter, and other un­set­tling tricks, eye­brows were raised.

The TV com­pany cov­er­ing the game came to the res­cue with a stand­ing spot­light which en­sured the Blues dressed in their black away kit - could get changed.

Ques­tion marks have been raised against Ro­dri’s name - it comes with the ter­ri­tory when you are the club’s record sign­ing and you don’t in­stantly look like a world­beater.

The Spain in­ter­na­tional ac­tu­ally had a steady start, but when City’s form slipped, the in­ten­sity dropped and the back five be­gan to be

ex­posed by teams with pace, he looked pedes­trian.

Maybe the one-paced ar­ti­sans of Burn­ley were the per­fect op­po­si­tion to ease him back in, but he re­sponded bril­liantly.

Even a team as gifted as the Blues have to win the phys­i­cal bat­tle against op­po­nents like the Clarets, by meet­ing them meat for meat, be­ing too sharp or prefer­ably - a mix­ture of both.

The nim­ble City at­tack­ing play­ers were that bit too sharp for a Burn­ley side which was left chas­ing shad­ows in the first half.

But back­ing up all that dart­ing, pirou­et­ting pace and move­ment was Ro­dri, tidy­ing up, solid in the tackle and pow­er­ful enough to en­sure that the op­po­si­tion did not bully the Blues.

Burn­ley had a plan, which was to sit deep and frus­trate, and then try to hit the lum­ber­ing fig­ure of Wood as of­ten and as early as pos­si­ble.

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