Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez both scored twice as Manchester City thrashed Burnley to ensure Liverpool will have to wait a little longer to wrap up the Premier League title.
Three first-half goals saw City on their way to the most comfortable of wins at Etihad Stadium, with Foden’s superb long-range strike breaking the deadlock before Mahrez’s double just before the break.
The Algerian’s fine solo effort made it 2-0 before he added another from the spot after Ben Mee fouled Sergio Aguero, with the penalty being awarded by the video assistant referee.
It was all too easy for City against a Burnley side that did not name their full complement of substitutes for their first game since the Premier League restarted behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Foden played a starring role in the rout, starting the move that saw Bernardo Silva tee up David Silva to make it 4-0 soon after the break, and then adding a fifth himself after Gabriel Jesus helped on a David Silva cross.
By then the evening was a stroll for Pep Guardiola’s side, who are now 20 points behind the leaders with eight league games remaining.
If the defending champions had dropped points against the Clarets, a win for Liverpool against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday would have seen them officially take City’s crown.
Instead Jurgen Klopp’s side must beat the Eagles and then rely on City dropping points against Chelsea on Thursday if they are to clinch the title before they visit Etihad Stadium on 2 July.
Burnley issued a statement during the game condemning the actions of those responsible after a plane carrying a banner reading ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ was flown over the ground shortly after kick-off.
Both sets of players had taken a knee before the game started in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Foden was given only limited game-time earlier in the season but he is threatening to end it as one of City’s main men.
The 20-year-old enjoyed the wide open spaces that Burnley increasingly gave him as the game progressed, and made the most of them with his build-up play, as well as his finishing.
“Foden stood out as the best player on the pitch,” said BBC Radio 5 live summariser Pat Nevin. “He had everything about his game – good energy and runs with the ball, but also the eye of a pass which all City players have.
“As an outsider, I would build my team around him, not just City but England too. If it was Spain, they would make him the core of the team early on. I watch Chelsea who have a lot of good young players, but Foden is extraordinary and has the vision that others don’t.”
From City’s point of view, this was the perfect way for them to ease more of their players back into action with Pep Guardiola making eight changes from the side that beat Arsenal last week.
The only blip was the injury sustained by Aguero as he won City’s penalty, with the Argentine striker forced off and Guardiola saying afterwards that it “does not look good”.
Guardiola added: “He felt something in his knee. He struggled in the last month with some pain in his knee. We will see on Tuesday.”
City were able to give Leroy Sane his first competitive outing of the season before the end, when the German winger replaced Foden.
Guardiola confirmed on Friday that Sane, who had been out of action since injuring his knee ligaments in the Community Shield in August, will be leaving the club either in the next transfer window or when his contract ends in the summer of 2021.
He was given an 11-minute cameo against the Clarets, which suggests he will play a part in Guardiola’s plans during the remainder of this campaign as City, who have already collected the Carabao Cup, look to defend the FA Cup and try to win the Champions League for the first time.