MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Manchester City thrashed Burnley 5-0 at an empty Etihad to ensure Liverpool will not be able to clinch the Premier League title when they face Crystal Palace early tomorrow.
However, the match was overshadowed by a banner flown over the stadium at the start of the match reading: “White lives matter Burnley”.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) has been printed on the back of all shirts for the first 12 matches of the Premier League restart.
Players, coaches and referees have also taken a knee before kick-off in every match to show their support for the fight against racial injustice.
“I am ashamed, I’m embarrassed, that a small number of our fans have decided to put that around the stadium,” said Burnley captain Ben Mee.
“These people need to come into the 21st Century and educate themselves as a lot of us do. I’m really upset that happened.”
In a statement, Burnley promised to hand lifetime bans to those responsible. “We wish to make it clear that those responsible are not welcome at Turf Moor,” said the club.
“We apologise unreservedly to the Premier League, to Manchester City and to all those helping to promote Black Lives Matter.”
Former City defender Micah Richards described the banner as hurtful and disheartening after the Premier League’s response to the BLM movement in the wake of American George Floyd’s death in police custody that has sparked worldwide protests.
“After how far we’ve come in these last couple of weeks it really does hurt me,” said former England international Richards.
The disparity of resources between the sides was shown even before kick-off as Burnley boss Sean Dyche could not even fill his bench, while Pep Guardiola was able to make eight changes from a 3-0 win over Arsenal last Wednesday.
Dyche has been left frustrated by the Burnley board’s refusal to extend contracts of five players who are out of contract at the end of the month.
Phil Foden made the most of his chance to start for City as the 20-year-old opened the floodgates with a sweet strike from outside the box.
Riyad Mahrez then killed the game as a contest with a quick double before half-time.
The Algerian left Charlie Taylor trailing on the floor before firing into the far corner on his weaker right foot.
Video assistant referee (VAR) awarded Mahrez the chance to double his tally from the penalty spot after Mee caught Sergio Aguero.
The Argentine striker had to be replaced by Gabriel Jesus and Guardiola admitted Aguero’s knee injury “doesn’t look good”.
“He felt something in his knee,” said Guardiola. “He struggled in the last month with some pain in his knee.”
Retaining their Premier League title may be beyond City as they trail Liverpool by 20 points, but Guardiola’s men still have the chance to add the FA Cup and Champions League to the League Cup they won in March.
The fierce competition for places appears to be having an effect as there was no let-up after the break.
Bernardo Silva’s low cross was turned home by his namesake David for the hosts’ fourth.
Foden then rounded off the scoring at the far post after Gabriel Jesus failed to convert David Silva’s cross.
“That was my best game in a City shirt,” said Foden. “I am just happy how the team are playing at the moment. We’re looking sharp.”
There was another positive for City late on as Leroy Sane replaced Foden to make his first appearance since suffering cruciate knee ligament damage in August.
The German international seems certain to leave the club at the end of the season after rejecting a new contract amid interest from Bayern Munich.
But Sane could still have a part to play in City’s quest for a cup treble before the end of the campaign.