Pep Guardiola threw bouquets at Vincent Kompany, then ordered his Manchester City team to eviscerate his former captain’s, which it did via Erling Haaland’s sixth hat-trick of the season (and second of the week) as Burnley were downed and a place secured in Sunday’s semi-final draw.
City’s manager had lauded Kompany for his drilling of a side that are near dead-certs for promotion to the Premier League, but a team sheet that showed Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, Rodri and Haaland showed a cold-eyed focus on collecting the second FA Cup of his reign.
The visiting manager was rightly given a hero’s reception that featured high-fives from City staff, a warm hug with Guardiola, and prolonged applause from all in the stadium. Then, the serious stuff began.
Kompany’s greeting was followed with the familiar tale of City establishing tempo and dominance though there was scant sight of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal. A Rodri shot was deflected clear as the Championship leaders scampered about harassing their hosts from Haaland, at the tip, to Stefan Ortega, in goal.
When attacking Rico Lewis, City’s left-back, padded into midfield, and Aymeric Laporte fanned wide from the centre and Rúben Dias the other way, Guardiola’s team operated a two-man defence. They were caught out when an Ortega pass aimed for Lewis was mis-hit, Vitinho collected, fed Lyle Foster, and the striker raced in: Lewis, recovering, saved his keeper from embarrassment. A little later, Nathan Tella was poised to finish and this time City required Dias’s sliding tackle to rescue them.
Burnley’s idea was similar to their hosts: squeeze the space and disrupt and it worked – for a while. When Julián Álvarez’s effort went for a corner this signalled City moving through the gears. If Haaland had not missed his header from Riyad Mahrez’s delivery of the kick Peacock-Farrell may have been picking the ball out of his net. The next time Haaland rose to connect he did – from a Phil Foden chip from the left – but the header went back across the six-yard area.
A contest that could be congested enough to resemble a five-a-side conducted in a squash court now had its game-breaker, as Haaland did what he is supreme at: score.
This was a route-one goal of some beauty. Ortega spiralled the ball downfield and the Norwegian controlled and tapped it back to Álvarez. The Argentinian, seeing Haaland turn and run through a central channel, fed him, and he, with a sniper’s eye, finished.
The second soon followed to leave the Clarets dazed. This time, De Bruyne and Foden were co-creators, the former rolling a pass in along the left corridor that split Burnley. Seeing Haaland galloping in, Foden crossed and City’s centre-forward, opening his body, gave Peacock-Farrell zero chance.
At the break Kompany’s men were relieved not to be further behind.
Burnley needed to try and nick a goal back. Easier suggested than done as shown when Vitinho found Josh Cullen and he engineered a lob that was read with ease by Dias in what was Burnley’s opening second half foray.
In a second City can slice open a defence as they illustrated via a move that saw Rodri passing wide to Walker whose first-time ball was met with a Mahrez volley Peacock-Farrell did well to repel. A further scare occurred when Haaland swivelled in the area and let fly, the visiting keeper again able to save.
But he could do nothing as the No 9 enjoyed yet another three-goal haul: Foden blazed against the post and there was Haaland, in poacher-mode, to finish. It had the phenomenon sliding to the turf in jubilation and City’s faithful singing their favourite ‘We are not really here’ ditty.
The tie now became a rout when De Bruyne weaved through traffic and slid in Álvarez who could not miss.
Cole Palmer was one of a number of Guardiola changes and he was soon hitting home from close-range. City fans, in party mood, took to their feet and enjoyed a “Poznan”, the facing-away-from-the pitch jig ,as choruses of “we’re going to Wembley” rang out.
Further delirium ensued after Álvarez sprinted down the right, turned, and coolly secured the sixth and his second of an impressive display.
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