Pep Guardiola threw a bouquet at Vincent Kompany, then ordered his Manchester City team to sack their former captain, which was done with Erling Haaland’s sixth hat-trick of the season (and second of the week) as Burnley were beaten and booked a place in Sunday’s game. Semi-final draw.
City’s manager praised Kompany for drilling a side close to a dead-cert for promotion to the Premier League, but a team sheet featuring Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker, Rodri and Haaland showed a cold-eyed focus on collecting a second time. FA Cup of his reign.
The visiting manager was rightly given a hero’s welcome with high-fives from City staff, a warm hug from Guardiola and a long standing ovation from everyone in the stadium. Then, the serious things began.
Kompany’s greeting was followed by a familiar tale of City establishing tempo and dominance despite little sight of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal. Rodrigo’s shot was clearly cleared away as the Championship leaders scampered about harassing their hosts as Stefan Ortega scored from Haaland.
With City left-back Rico Lewis padded in midfield in attack, and Emerick Laporte fanning wide from the center and Ruben Dias fanning the other way, Guardiola’s side operated a two-man defence. When an Ortega pass aimed at Lewis misfired, Vitinho collected, fed Lyle Foster, and the striker ran: Lewis, recovering, saved his keeper from embarrassment. Moments later, Nathan Tella was on hand to finish and this time City needed a sliding tackle from Dias to save them.
Burnley’s idea was the same as their hosts: squeeze space and disrupt and it worked – for a while. When Julian Alvarez’s effort went for a corner, it signaled City were shifting through the gears. Peacock-Farrell might have pulled the ball out of his net had Haaland not missed a header from the delivery of Riyad Mahrez’s kick. The next time Haaland rose to connect he did – from Phil Foden’s chip from the left – but the header went wide of the six-yard area.
A closely-fought tournament similar to five-a-side conducted on a squash court now had its game-breaker, as Holland reigned supreme in the score he made.
It was a path-a goal of some beauty. Ortega spun the ball downfield and the Norwegian took control and returned it to Alvarez. The Argentine saw Haaland running through the central channel, fed him, and he, with a sniper’s eye, finished.
The second soon left the Clarets stunned. This time, De Bruyne and Foden were co-creators, the former rolling passes along the left corridor that split Burnley. Seeing Haaland cut in, Foden crossed and City’s centre-forward opened his body to give Peacock-Farrell zero chance.
At break the company men were relieved not to fall behind.
Burnley needed to try and get the goal back. Vitinho found Josh Cullen and he engineered a lob that was easily read by Dias for Burnley’s first half of the second half.
In the second City could slice through the defense as they figured through a move which saw Rodri pass wide to Walker whose first-time ball was met by Mahrez’s volley which Peacock-Farrell did well to turn away. Another scare came when Haaland turned in the area and let fly, again saved by the visitors’ keeper.
But he could do nothing as the No. 9 enjoyed another three-goal haul: Foden rang against the post and there was Haaland, in poacher-mode, to finish. It had the event moving onto the field with jubilation and the city faithful singing their favorite ‘We’re Not Really Here’.
The tie now became rout when De Bruyne weaved through traffic and slipped to Alvarez who couldn’t miss.
Cole Palmer was one of Guardiola’s many changes and he was soon returning home from close range. City fans, in a party mood, got to their feet and enjoyed a “Poznań” as choruses of “We’re going to Wembley” rang out, jigging away from the pitch.
More delirium ensued as Alvarez swerved to the right, spun and finished the sixth and his second impressive performance.