Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was grateful to goal-line technology after his side kept their Premier League title hopes in their own hands by a matter of millimetres at Burnley.
Twenty-nine of them, in fact, as Sergio Aguero’s 20th goal of the season just barely crossed the line ahead of Matt Lowton’s desperate bid to keep it out.
It was enough to settle a nervy encounter at Turf Moor, with Guardiola joking he was “trembling” through the closing stages as City finished with four centre-halves on the pitch.
It was not a typical City performance, but Guardiola was able to celebrate in front of the travelling fans at full-time as his side moved one point clear of Liverpool with two games to play.
“We deserved to win, we created a lot of chances,” Guardiola said. “I’m so delighted for the way we controlled them.
“We came to the most typical English stadium and we didn’t concede one corner.”
Guardiola insisted it was not a complaint, but could not help but point to the pitch conditions, with Burnley choosing to leave the grass long and dry.
(not to scale 😂) pic.twitter.com/taQlyw3prt
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 28, 2019
He did have cause to complain early in the second half when City were denied a penalty as David Silva’s shot struck Ashley Barnes firmly on the arm.
It is the sort of incident which VAR will correct from next season, but as far as City’s titles hopes are concerned, at least goal-line technology is now well established.
Sergio Aguero initially mis-hit Bernardo Silva’s through-ball, but his second attempt had the beating – just – of both Tom Heaton and Lowton.
“Without technology maybe it is not given,” Guardiola said. “There was a penalty not given but that is why I like (technology).
“Everything we have done over these two seasons, nobody has given us anything. We have won it. This is good.”
The goal means Aguero is now only the second player after Thierry Henry to score at least 20 Premier League goals in five consecutive seasons.
Otro paso adelante. A seguir así 💪🏽 Vamos City 🤟🏽// Another stride forward. Let’s keep it up 💪🏽 C’mon, City! 🤟🏽 pic.twitter.com/8dxgx9uABk
— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) April 28, 2019
“He is a legend. He does that all the time, important goals,” Guardiola said, before quickly pivoting to his team’s achievements.
“We have more than 20 points on United and Arsenal and Tottenham, it is incredible.
“I could not expect that, start of season or especially in winter time. We have won 12 games in a row. It is incredible.”
— Leroy Sané (@LeroySane19) April 28, 2019
It will of course now be a disappointment if the title does not follow, but Guardiola feels certain of his side’s place in history following last season’s 100-point haul.
“In two seasons we have 192 points,” he said. “Maybe one team will again make 100 points in a season, but for the second one to make 92, 95, 98, it will not happen.”
Burnley finished defeated but defiant, with Sean Dyche proud of how his side made the reigning champions toil.
“I think it’s a compliment that I saw Pep Guardiola with my own eyes, and heard him, screaming, ‘Get it in the corner!’” he said.
“It just goes to show even the best have to do it, they have to see the game through with four centre-halves on the pitch. Sometimes they have to do it as well.”
With 40 points Burnley’s Premier League status is assured, something that was far from guaranteed around the turn of the year following a poor start.
“We have put such a big effort into the second half of the season,” Dyche said.
“People say it has been a poor season. It has been a fantastic season for us. This is Burnley. It’s not a walk in the park. Every season…finance, structure, trying to keep our players…every year is tough.
“The second half of the season, look at our goal tally, our points tally, look at our performance level – first class.”