August 11, 2023
Rodri gives Man City priceless reminder amid Liverpool and Chelsea transfer chaos
In a summer where every midfielder seems to set a crazy new transfer record, Manchester City fans can rest easy that the best of the lot is already a Blue. Arsenal went big early in splashing out £105m on Declan Rice and it was telling that on the day where Chelsea reportedly agreed a £55m fee for Romeo Lavia as well as battling it out with Liverpool for £111m Moises Caicedo it was Rodri who stole the show. It would probably cost a country to prize the Spanish star out of Pep Guardiola's squad and it was he, the goalscorer in the Champions League final, who made sure City got their Premier League defence off to a winning start with a 3-0 win at Burnley that was more tricky than the scoreline suggested. It didn't look like it was going to be difficult with three minutes on the clock and Erling Haaland running away to celebrate after scoring with his first touch. The Norwegian fired in Rodri's header back across goal after a wicked cross from Kevin De Bruyne to briefly deflate the Turf Moor crowd. Soon enough though, things started to shift away from the champions. Vincent Kompany may have revolutionised Burnley's image on the pitch but the fans at Turf Moor still make it unpleasant for visiting teams; Rico Lewis appeared to be struck in the head by a lighter after being pushed over near the corner flag - to the club's credit, the culprit was swiftly removed from the ground - while De Bruyne was treated to chants calling him a soft b****** as he gingerly made his way to the dressing room after coming off injured. Also read: Man City player ratings as Erling Haaland and Bernardo Silva bright De Bruyne coming off after just 24 minutes was a sickener for the player and the visitors. Having worked so hard to get back In time for the season after snapping his hamstring in Istanbul, the Belgian appeared to pull up and knew his race was run immediately. That brought a Premier League debut for Mateo Kovacic for City but it was Burnley who continued to look dangerous, with Zeki Amdouni and Lyle Foster causing Nathan Ake and Manu Akanji real problems at the back. With no Ruben Dias or John Stones available for the game owing to injuries, City's backline was being fiercely tested. For all Kompany has made Burnley more pleasing on the eye, that does not mean they are any easier to play against. As they showed for the first third of their FA Cup thrashing at the Etihad last season, when they get things right, they can cause problems for teams as good as City. When his teammates wobbled though, Rodri was rock solid. The 27-year-old made a number of crucial interventions in a matter of minutes around his box to keep the Blues ahead and stabilise the side as Kovacic bedded in, enabling them to build back the momentum that allowed them to stretch further ahead. Kyle Walker, captain for the night again once De Bruyne had gone off, did well to latch onto a ball on the right channel and then pick out Julian Alvarez on the edge of the box but there was still plenty of work to be done when the Argentine slipped it forward to a retreating Haaland. One majestic swing of his left foot saw it in off the crossbar and another two-goal haul; a harsh lesson for Burnley in why you really have to take your chances if you want to hurt this side. Haaland was not best pleased on the opening weekend of last season when he was denied the chance of a hat-trick at West Ham with a substitution, and here he earned the wrath of Guardiola at half-time after shouting at Bernardo Silva for not slipping him in in the 50th minute (that's the end of the first half given the new refereeing protocol, not the start of the second half). City's manager interrupted his dressing down of the player to shove away the camera that was capturing the heated discussion, before catching up to continue. However much heat Burnley tried to inject into the second half, City killed the game in the way that they are so good at. A few promising passages never threatened Ederson, who was busier on the night trying to spring the home defence with long kicks over the top for Haaland and others to run onto. That lack of jeopardy allowed the away end to cycle through their songs (even if, criminally, there isn't one for Rodri) as they enjoyed the first away day of the campaign. After the strange, subdued atmosphere at Wembley for the Community Shield owing to the boycott over kick-off times, it was back to business as usual for team and fans. City remain below their best, as they expected to at the beginning of the season, yet that winning mentality that demands the best at all times is still alive and well in Haaland, Guardiola, and the rest of the squad. It is that more than the points or the scoreline that should be noted by their rivals as they try to stop the Blues doing what nobody has done and getting four in a row. It helps significantly when you have a striker as good as Haaland is, but also a midfield player as good as Rodri. Even in the second half, the ball gravitated to him; seconds after former City goalkeeper James Trafford tipped over his effort from distance, the Burnley stopper was called into action from the subsequent corner keeping out Rodri's header so it was no surprise when soon after the ball dropped for him to leather in a third from a free-kick. City's No.16 has asked coaching staff for more protection this season, conscious that he cannot put his body every year through the amount it went through on the way to the Treble. The problem for him is that when he plays at this level, anyone else in world Football - never mind the squad - would be a downgrade.
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