Raheem Sterling could not mark his return to Manchester City’s starting line-up with a goal but Kevin de Bruyne made certain his side still beat Burnley after Bernardo Silva’s early strike.
City had won 5-0 on each of the Clarets’ past four visits to Etihad Stadium and it seemed like a similar scoreline was on the cards when the impressive Silva followed up Phil Foden’s shot to give the home side an early lead.
There was to be no glut of goals on this occasion, however. Although City dominated possession and created plenty of chances, they failed to extend their advantage, giving the visitors hope.
Burnley gave them a few scares before De Bruyne added a second goal with 20 minutes to go, curling his shot home when the ball broke to him inside the box.
Sterling made only his third league start of the season – having been recalled at the end of a week where he spoke publicly about being open to a move abroad if he failed to get more game time at City.
He struggled to make an impact in the first half while playing as the central attacker in City’s front three, managing only 11 touches – by far the lowest of any of their outfield players – and only one shot, which was blocked.
Sterling was far more involved when he switched to the left flank after the break but was unable to add to his tally of one league goal in 2021-22 and it was down to De Bruyne to finish the game off.
The win moves City into second place, a point behind leaders Liverpool. Burnley remain in the bottom three, still without a league win this season
Burnley could not end their winless run, which at 11 games is the longest in England’s top four divisions, but they still gave City plenty to think about.
Maxwel Cornet, who saw his shot brilliantly saved by Zack Steffen after running clear, went close to equalising in the first half, as did Josh Brownhill, who fizzed his shot inches wide.
City were misfiring too, with Riyad Mahrez another of their players failing to make the most of his recall – the closest he came with his four efforts at goal was when he blasted another Silva cut-back against the bar.
It could have made for a nervous finale for City’s fans, if not for De Bruyne’s cool finish after Burnley failed to clear their lines.
It meant the home supporters were able to relax and celebrate the news of Leicester’s late goals in their win over City’s neighbours United – something they did extremely loudly.