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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Manchester City enjoy reunion with Joe Hart after thrashing Burnley

Former City goalkeeper produced a good display despite conceding five goals at the Etihad Stadium

Burnley goalkeeper Joe Hart reacts after Leroy Sane, right, scores Manchester City's fifth goal. EPA
Burnley goalkeeper Joe Hart reacts after Leroy Sane, right, scores Manchester City's fifth goal. EPA

This was the sort of reunion Manchester City could appreciate. As they welcomed Joe Hart back to the Etihad Stadium for the first time, the club’s gratitude to a veteran of 348 appearances was apparent when they named a training pitch after him, the fans’ fondness for a favourite evident in the applause, his old allies’ appreciation obvious as he left the pitch talking to Vincent Kompany.

The nostalgic could savour the sight of Hart making two wonderful saves, reviving memories of some of his Uefa Champions League heroics on this ground. The faithful could delight in the scoreline.

Because Hart’s efforts amounted to a damage-limitation exercise. “You need your keeper to make some saves here,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche.

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Hart did and still conceded five times in a Premier League game for the first time in 11 years and City were rampant as they retained the division’s only 100 per cent home record, marrying style, substance and statistics.

“We shoot 24 shots, 10 on target,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “We have an average of 21. We are the best side in Europe in shots. The goals were so outstanding: beautiful, beautiful goals.”

The City manager admitted he may have made a mistake by discarding Hart, but he had few reasons to regret letting him leave. Victory was secured by Hart’s contemporaries. Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho scored while David Silva was the orchestrator-in-chief in a timeless display of class.

City also had a different type of comeback to enjoy. Kevin de Bruyne returned as a substitute after almost 10 weeks out.

“Kevin helped us to make another step and another rhythm,” said Guardiola, who will consider whether to start him against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

The fact City only dropped four points in the Belgian’s absence is a sign of how impressive the Silvas, David and Bernardo, have been.

The former got a standing ovation when he went off. He had offered elegant incision when Hart was beaten by a combination of two long-term colleagues. Hart played alongside David Silva for six seasons and Aguero for five.

The Spaniard steered in a low centre for the Argentine to supply a precise finish. It was the 20th time the midfielder has earned the assist for one of the striker’s goals – though he has been involved in many another – but the first one the goalkeeper could rue.

Hart made brilliant saves from two of his former teammates, first stopping Aguero’s close-range volley and then clawing away David Silva’s header. The rebound fell invitingly to Aguero whose subsequent miss was bizarre, but not costly.

There was an oddity about City’s second goal. Leroy Sane claimed a penalty for the slightest of tugs by Jack Cork, David Silva centred and Bernardo Silva finished adeptly as Burnley stopped as they thought the ball had gone out for a goal kick. “The ball is out of play,” added Dyche.

Hart said the linesman later apologised to him, but with Burnley feeling aggrieved, they conceded again when Fernandinho’s fine finish flew past the motionless goalkeeper. “Fernandinho made an extraordinary performance,” added Guardiola.

Further goals felt cruel to Hart and Burnley. He was beaten for a fourth time when Riyad Mahrez scored a lovely first City goal at the Etihad. It was a redemptive moment for a man who missed a penalty at Liverpool two weeks ago. Sane added a fifth from Benjamin Mendy’s low centre.

It added to Dyche’s irritation. He thought the scorer should have been sent off earlier. “Sane has to be a red card for kicking Matt Lowton,” he said. “That is unacceptable in everyone’s view.”

He argued City should have been reduced to 10 men for Kompany’s first-minute challenge on Aaron Lennon.

“He is out of control, he doesn’t know where the ball is, he doesn’t know where the man is,” he insisted. “Azza has got two stitches.”

But City took the three points and Dyche accepted: “They are a top, top side.”