Manchester City could scarcely have done more before yesterday's game to remember those who laid down everything in defence of these shores. What their manager wouldn't give for someone who will lay anything down in defence of his side's goal.
Laurence Binyon's For the Fallen was the verse they read before kick-off, a fair description of City's back four last night as they crouched on their haunches in the drizzle and winced. They can have no complaint that their ranks, with one win in seven in the Premier League after a fifth successive draw, met with muffled boos at the end; nor that Kevin McDonald's 87th-minute equaliser had denied them a win.
Sheikh Mansour has spent £36m on Joleon Lescott and Wayne Bridge,
Brendan Flood has laid out around £7m on the entire Burnley side, and rarely has less been more. Only once since August has Mark Hughes seen his players keep a clean sheet, though the City manager preferred to talk about his side's attacking qualities afterwards. "In our enthusiasm to get forward we've left areas open," he said, after a performance which saw Burnley go 2-0 up inside 32 minutes. "We expect some determination to get back and we saw that."
The defensive omens were there from the beginning where City were concerned. Burnley, as uncowed by the financial gulf on show as they were when Manchester United visited Turf Moor, could have been two goals ahead inside 10 minutes. It was their misfortune that the central defender Clarke Carlisle happened to be the one left alone in City's box to try a bicycle kick. Then Robbie Blake's stabbed effort from an unchallenged low cross from the right by Graham Alexander was arrowed marginally wide of Shay Given's left-hand post.
Bridge was frequently absent from his post on the left flank and it was when Lescott raised a hand to the ball lofted in from that side by Tyrone Mears that Stuart Attwell awarded a justifiable penalty. Alexander converted, as he always does. (His career conversion rate after the right-foot despatch to Given's right is 69 from 74; 13 from 13 for Burnley.)
Blake exploited the same vacant flank minutes later, whipping a firm, low free-kick which Given was relieved to find deflected into his hands. But City were carved apart by the next advance when Chris Eagles received a short ball from Blake and ran the ball behind City's back four for Steven Fletcher to tap in.
The comeback, against a side who had conceded 17 in their five consecutive away defeats, always looked possible with Stephen Ireland, restored to something resembling last season's form, the creative nexus. The goals for City duly arrived inside a 15-minute period either side of the break.
Shaun Wright-Phillips dazzled Blake, cut inside and saw his shot deflected heavily off Stephen Jordan into the goal before the interval. The equaliser arrived 10 minutes after the restart when Gareth Barry's lofted 30-yard free-kick reached Lescott, who crossed on to Kolo Touré's left foot. Then Wright-Phillips' low cross from the right ran behind Emmanuel Adebayor and reached the unmarked Craig Bellamy who swept it home, right-footed.
Burnley's defence was even more porous than City's had been at this stage. A hard Bellamy cross was on Carlos Tevez before he could convert it and Mears headed off the line. But Burnley have spirit in abundance.
Their own equaliser came when one substitute, David Nugent, headed Fletcher's cross across the box towards another, McDonald, who launched himself at the ball to convert from six yards. Owen Coyle could not resist the obvious comparison. "One of those elite player's [wages] would probably cover the entire salary of my squad today," the Burnley manager said. "This shows what we are learning in the Premier League."
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Man of the match: Mears
Match rating: 7/10
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