Sergio Aguero netted a scruffy brace as Manchester City came from behind to beat Burnley 2-1 and go top of the Premier League, however momentarily.
City were without a win in each of their past three matches immediately on the back of Champions League duty and, after drawing 1-1 at Borussia Monchengladbach in midweek, Burnley had them up against it once more through Dean Marney’s superb 14th-minute volley.
Pep Guardiola’s side lacked fluency and intensity but Aguero’s supreme poaching instincts came to the fore as he converted a 37th-minute corner and was on hand to net in similarly scrappy fashion with an hour played.
Burnley, hindered by the loss of Marney and Johann Gudmundsson to injury, were unable to avoid a third loss at a typically vociferous Turf Moor this season despite a vast improvement from Monday’s 4-0 thrashing at West Brom.
Indeed, City were left hanging on in order to edge ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool before their nearest rivals host Tottenham and Sunderland respectively, and they were grateful for their masterful marksman’s 15th and 16th goals of the campaign.
Aguero’s fierce low drive brought a sharp save from veteran Burnley goalkeeper Paul Robinson – making his Clarets debut and a first Premier League appearance for 1664 days after England international Tom Heaton was ruled out with a calf injury.
But it was a rare moment of City encouragement after a lethargic start to the match and they deservedly fell behind.
Gudmundsson thudded a drive into Claudio Bravo’s chest moments before the Chile international was powerless to keep Marney’s sweetly struck volley out of the bottom left corner.
Nolito was denied by a plunging Robinson save and a lunging Matthew Lowton block in quick succession but Aguero scrambled City level from the latter chance’s resulting corner.
Robinson rolled back the years to deny Aguero at full stretch but Marney and Gudmundsson limping off further checked Burnley’s excellent opening to the contest.
Marney’s replacement Scott Arfield teed up Lowton to cross and Sam Vokes’ header forced a stop from Bravo in first-half stoppage time.
City’s opening to the second period was a sharp improvement on their initial efforts as Aguero had a shot blocked and Yaya Toure drove over left-footed at the end of an intricate passing move.
Burnley sat in front of extended periods of City possession that did not threaten enough for Guardiola’s liking and the ineffective Raheem Sterling made way for Leroy Sane after sustaining a heavy but fair challenge from former City youngster Ben Mee.
Stand-in home captain Mee was involved in vain as City hit the front, making a block inside the area before botching a clearance and ending up splayed on the floor with Stephen Ward and James Tarkowski.
Sane and Fernandinho almost made a similar hash of the opportunity presented to them but the latter managed to pick out Aguero from the byline for a simple finish.
Burnley refused to accept their lot and Aleksandar Kolarov cleared a Michael Keane header out of his goalmouth.
Bravo did not always inspire confidence during a late onslaught but he held an Ashley Barnes overhead kick in stoppage time to make sure of a sixth City win in seven away league games this season.
KEY OPTA STATS
– Burnley have lost as many home league games in their last four as they did in the previous 22 combined (2).
– The Citizens have lost just one of their last 15 top-flight games, winning nine and drawing five.
– Sergio Aguero has scored 33 goals in his last 34 Premier League appearances for Manchester City.
– Sergio Aguero has now scored against 29 of the 30 different teams that he’s faced in the Premier League, only failing to score against Bolton.
– Dean Marney scored his first Premier League goal in 2558 days, since netting for Hull v Everton in November 2009.
– Manchester City have kept just two clean sheets in their 13 Premier League games under Pep Guardiola.