Burnley: Cruelly denied by VAR in their agonising Champions League exit, Manchester City relied on technology to keep their Premier League title charge on course on Sunday.
City scraped past Burnley 1-0 thanks to a scruffy strike by Sergio Aguero that needed the confirmation of goal-line technology.
The distance over the line? Less than three centimetres.
The nervy wait before referee Paul Tierney awarded the goal was in keeping with a tense match at Turf Moor that ended with City having six defenders on the field — including four centre-backs — and under instructions from Pep Guardiola to “get it in the corner”.
A win by any fashion is gratefully received by City as they look to stay ahead of Liverpool in the two-team title race that looks set to go to the final weekend.
With their 12th straight victory in the league, City — seeking to retain the title for the first time — moved one point clear of Liverpool with two games left. City’s last two games are at home to Leicester City and away to Brighton, while Liverpool still have to face Newcastle United away and Wolverhampton Wanderers at home.
Aguero joined Thierry Henry as the only players to score 20 or more goals in five straight Premier League seasons.
Technology has ruled City’s fate this season.
Another big call in the league came in their 2-1 win over Liverpool in January, when City defender John Stones cleared the ball off the line — off his own deflection — with 11 millimetres to spare. That remains Liverpool’s only loss this campaign.
But it was another story in the Champions League when an injury-time goal by Raheem Sterling, which would have sent City through against Tottenham in the quarter-finals, was belatedly ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee.
At least City know they will have another chance to win the Champions League next season. The same probably cannot be said of Manchester United anymore after their latest disappointing result, a 1-1 home draw with Chelsea. Arsenal are also struggling to qualify for Europe’s top club competition — by virtue of their Premier League placing, anyway — after losing 3-0 at Leicester.
DE GEA DILEMMA
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a decision to make about David de Gea.
The Spain goalkeeper made yet another mistake on Sunday, fumbling a long-range shot to allow Marcos Alonso to convert the rebound and earn Chelsea a point at Old Trafford. That cancelled out Juan Mata’s early goal.
De Gea has also produced errors to concede goals against Barcelona and Manchester City over the past two weeks. Not long ago he was regarded as United’s best player but he is turning into a liability.
“There is no chance anyone can blame him for losing points,” Solskjaer said. “He knows he could have had (held) that shot, but that is football. David is one who likes to play games and I will have chats with him and he will respond in the right way.”
It might be too late to save United from dropping back into the Europa League next season.
United stayed in sixth place, and are five points behind Tottenham and three behind Chelsea. Arsenal are a point ahead of United in fifth. Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal all have a much better goal difference than United.
In the last 10 games involving the four teams in the race for the top four, only one of them has claimed a win.
“It seems nobody wants the third and fourth spot, everyone is struggling,” Mata said. “We must get six points but it doesn’t depend on us anymore.”
Arsenal have conceded three goals in each of their last three games for the first time in the 27-year history of the Premier League.
It could mean the team’s best chance of Champions League qualification is through winning the Europa League rather than finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was Arsenal’s biggest culprit in the loss at Leicester after getting himself sent off for collecting a second booking in the 36th minute.
Youri Tielemans put the Foxes ahead in the 56th and Jamie Vardy added two late goals for Brendan Rodgers’ team, who climbed to eighth. They are three points behind Wolves in the fight for seventh place, which may still earn a route to the Europa League.
Standings: Premier League
GP W D L GF GA Pts
Man City 36 30 2 4 90 22 92
Liverpool 36 28 7 1 84 20 91
Tottenham 36 23 1 12 65 36 70
Chelsea 36 20 8 8 60 39 68
Arsenal 36 20 6 10 69 49 66
Man United 36 19 8 9 64 51 65
Wolverhampton 36 15 9 12 46 44 54
Leicester 36 15 6 15 51 47 51
Everton 36 14 8 14 50 44 50
Watford 36 14 8 14 51 52 50
West Ham 36 13 7 16 45 54 46
Crystal Palace 36 12 7 17 43 48 43
Newcastle 36 11 9 16 36 45 42
Bournemouth 36 12 6 18 52 65 42
Burnley 36 11 7 18 44 63 40
Southampton 36 9 11 16 44 61 38
Brighton 36 9 8 19 33 55 35
Cardiff 36 9 4 23 30 66 31
Fulham 36 7 5 24 34 76 26
Huddersfield 36 3 5 28 20 74 14