Erling Haaland was back in the old routine with a devastating display of finishing as Manchester City opened the defence of their Premier League title with a comfortable victory at Burnley.
The goalscoring phenomenon, who hit 52 goals as City won the Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League last season, took only 185 seconds to open his account for the new campaign, striking a blow from which the newly promoted Clarets never recovered.
Haaland pounced in the area when Rodri headed down Kevin de Bruyne’s cross, then curled in a magnificent left-foot strike into the top corner beyond Burnley keeper James Trafford after 36 minutes to effectively end the contest.
Burnley, roared on by a passionate home crowd, never gave up but City’s control grew more emphatic as the game went on, Rodri turning home the third with 15 minutes left after the home defence failed to clear a free-kick.
It all ended very comfortably for City, their night only marred by another injury for De Bruyne, who limped off after only 23 minutes to be replaced by summer signing Mateo Kovacic.
Burnley had Anass Zaroury sent off in injury time, after a the video assistant referee review, for a dangerous lunge on Kyle Walker.
Manchester City showed inevitable signs of rust even though they started their campaign with a win – as was proved by the animated behaviour of perfectionist manager Pep Guardiola.
If goal machine Haaland was expecting a congratulatory arm around the shoulder from his manager as he walked off at half-time, he received a rude awakening when he received an intense lecture from Guardiola, who demanded a cameraman move out of range as he spoke to the striker.
He clearly wanted even more from Haaland, who showed his lethal economy by scoring twice from only six touches in the first half.
It sounds ludicrous to suggest Haaland was often on the periphery of the action but such is his brilliance in front of goal that he still makes the decisive contribution and built the platform for what turned into a routine victory for the champions.
Kovacic slipped smoothly into the action as replacement for De Bruyne but the Belgian’s recurring injury problems will be a real source of concern for Guardiola and City. He spent the summer recovering from the serious hamstring injury that forced him out of the Champions League final win over Inter Milan after only 36 minutes and looked crestfallen as he walked off here.
City will hope the injury to such a key player, who had already created the opening goal for Haaland, is not serious – as the rest of their opening Premier League night played out satisfactorily.
Burnley were presented with the toughest possible start to life back in the Premier League as manager Vincent Kompany tried to plot the downfall of the Treble winners and the club where he became an iconic figure as the inspirational captain during their glory years.
The result was locked in after City went ahead early but Burnley showed real spirit and character, even creating anxious moments for Guardiola’s side as Lyle Foster and Zeki Amdouni threatened.
In the end, they were undone by some loose defending but more specifically by the predatory instincts and natural goalscoring prowess of Haaland – and they will not be the last to suffer that fate this season.
Burnley stuck to Kompany’s passing methods, which made them such impressive winners of the Championship last season, while Trafford, the goalkeeping hero of England’s European Under-21 Championship triumph in July, made an impressive debut against his former club.
Kompany’s players got an early taste of what will be required this season but this was the most exacting examination of all and, even though they lost, there will still be plenty to encourage them.
Some booing was heard when the players took the knee before kick-off and Burnley removed a fan from Turf Moor after City defender Rico Lewis was struck with an object.