Burnley 1 Manchester City 2Sergio Aguero needed all his goal-scoring instincts and a little bit of luck to finally get the better of Paul Robinson and propel Manchester City to the top of the Premier League.
Robinson, making his Burnley debut in place of the injured Tom Heaton, twice denied Aguero with excellent first-half saves as the former England international showed his undimmed qualities.
But Aguero isn’t the league’s leading scorer for nothing and twice he pounced following goalmouth scrambles as City came from behind to hand Burnley only a second home defeat since the opening day of the season.
Aguero’s two goals – which took him into double figures in the league this season – were not a patch on the thunderbolt Dean Marney scored to give the Clarets a deserved first half lead.
But ultimately they proved the difference as Burnley paid the penalty for one second-half defensive lapse as Aguero grabbed the winner to give Pep Guardiola’s side a sixth away win of the season.
Dean Marney scored his first goal in the Premier League since 2009
The Clarets had started a league game for the first time since the beginning of the 2013/14 season without Heaton in goal as his run of 142 consecutive league appearances was ended by a calf injury.
That meant the captain’s armband for Bee Mee against his former club and a first appearance for Robinson, 10 months after he re-launched his career with a move to Turf Moor.
The former Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham and Leeds keeper hadn’t played a top-flight game since May, 2012 and any first-team fixture since September, 2014.
But the 37-year-old showed no rustiness as he played his part in an outstanding first-half performance from the Clarets as they looked to prevent City from earning the win that would take them above leaders Chelsea to the top of the table - for a few hours at least.
Robinson passed his first test with a sharp save seven minutes in as he got down quickly to turn away an Aguero shot that was bottom-corner bound.
He later denied Aguero again with a right-handed stop at full stretch and also showed his class with a save low down to his left to keep out Nolito’s side-footed finish.
Johann Gudmundsson was replaced after suffering a hamstring injury
But it was far from all City as the Clarets had by far the best of the opening half-hour, never allowing the visitors to settle with a high-tempo approach and creating chances of their own.
Burnley should have had a penalty after just six minutes when Nicolas Otamendi barged into the back of Jeff Hendrick following a Steven Defour free-kick and winger Johann Gudmundsson then tested Claudio Bravo after cutting onto his left foot to let fly.
Bravo had little trouble with that, but had no chance as Burnley went ahead in the 14th-minute through Marney’s stunning strike.
The midfielder hadn’t scored since March, 2014 but made his 10th Burnley goal worth the wait as he met Otamendi’s headed clearance from a Robinson free-kick with a first-time volley which sped into the bottom corner.
It was no more than Burnley deserved as Pep Guardiola’s title-chasers were constantly pushed back and not allowed to build up any rhythm.
But the tide began to turn just before the break as Robinson was finally beaten by Aguero nine minutes before half-time as the master goal-poacher poked the ball home from close range after Nolito’s effort had been blocked following a corner.
Sergio Aguero levelled with his 15th goal of the season
Burnley countered with a header from Sam Vokes, which Bravo saved at the foot of a post, but were further disrupted by injuries to Marney and Gudmundsson and started the second half on the back foot as City looked to force the pace and get their noses in front.
And just when it looked as though the Clarets had repelled the initial thrust, Aguero got his second of the game to make it 2-1 with an hour gone in painful fashion.
The Clarets should have cleared the ball after throwing bodies in the way to keep out Yaya Toure but instead allowed Fernandinho to make the most of a fortunate bounce to get to the by-line and pull the ball back for Aguero to bundle in his 16th goal of the season via his kneecaps.
With Burnley having run themselves into the ground in a bid to compete with a team already assured of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League and able to rest a number of key players following their mid-week exertions in Germany, it was always going to be tough for the Clarets to respond.
But despite having to hunt for long periods without the ball, Dyche’s men raised a brave late effort to try and force an equaliser and a point that would not have been un-deserved.
The visitors suddenly didn’t look so assured as they were put under pressure.
Michael Keane and George Boyd both saw efforts blocked and with the last kick of the game substitute Ashley Barnes almost repeated the heroics of his injury-time winner against Crystal Palace.
This time his overhead kick following a flick-on from Tarkowski was saved.
But, despite finishing empty-handed, the Clarets bounced back from their poor performance in losing at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night and showed again they can live with the best when they come to Turf Moor.
Burnley: Robinson; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Gudmundsson (Tarkowski 43), Marney (Arfield 40), Defour (Barnes 80), Hendrick, Boyd; Vokes. Substitutes: Pope, Flanagan, Kightly, Barnes, Gray.
Manchester City: Bravo, Sagna, Clichy, Kolarov, Otamendi, Fernando, Fernandinho, Sterling (Sane 57), Toure, Nolito (De Bruyne 78), Aguero (Navas 89). Substitutes: Caballero, Zabaleta, Navas, Silva, Iheanacho.