Alvarez's brace leads Man City past Burnley in Haaland's return
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Erling Haaland made his highly anticipated return for Manchester City after nearly two months out injured, coming on as a substitute in a 3-1 win over Burnley on Wednesday after fellow striker Julian Alvarez scored twice on his 24th birthday.
Haaland was given a big ovation at Etihad Stadium after coming on in the 71st minute for Kevin De Bruyne, whose first start since his own injury layoff included a clever assist for Alvarez’s — and City’s — second goal.
Rodri added the third for City while Haaland was unable to add to his 14 goals this campaign — tied for the most in the league — in his short time on the field, which included a wild miskick that sent the ball backward instead of toward goal.
Alvarez’s double will give City manager Pep Guardiola plenty to think about heading into the final few months of the season, now that Haaland is healthy again after his foot injury.
Does Guardiola pair the Norway and Argentina internationals in attack? Or does Alvarez make way, having led the line well in Haaland’s absence since Dec. 6?
Whatever he does, Guardiola has enviable options now that Haaland and De Bruyne are back.
“He comes back with energy,” Guardiola said of De Bruyne. "He played really, really good. Him and Erling are going to help us this part of the season.”
Alvarez headed in a cross from Matheus Nunes in the 16th minute for the opening goal against a Burnley team managed by Vincent Kompany, a former City captain who has a statue outside the Etihad as a tribute to his 11 years of service at the club.
Alvarez made it 2-0 by slotting home after a quick free kick in behind the defense from De Bruyne from a central position. Guardiola celebrated wildly with his staff, suggesting it was a planned move.
“Today all the teams have people just focusing on set pieces," the City manager said. “It’s a massive thing in modern football. We won in the (FA) Cup at Tottenham from a corner, and today we practiced it and it worked.”
Rodri’s goal was in the 46th minute, the Spain midfielder finishing first time from the edge of the area after Phil Foden’s inside pass.
Burnley grabbed a consolation goal through Ameen Al-Dakhil in the third minute of stoppage time and Guardiola said the visitors merited more.
“I have the feeling Burnley did not get the result they deserved to take," he said, before adding on Kompany: "Vinny, sooner or later will finish here. I have the feeling that he will finish here. He is already a big manager, what he did last season with Burnley.
“You can see the ideas they have, the way they try to defend. I like what he does.”
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