MANCHESTER, England — Pep Guardiola insists he had no concerns about starting Riyad Mahrez in Manchester City’s 5-0 victory over Burnley, despite his penalty miss in the goalless draw with Liverpool.
Despite missing from the spot before the international break, and pushing Gabriel Jesus out of the way to take the kick himself, Mahrez retained his place in the starting XI and scored a delightful 20-yard goal as City maintained their lead at the top of the Premier League.
“He [Mahrez] played so good at Anfield, that’s why I decided to play him again,” Guardiola told a news conference. “It was not easy playing there with a lot of personality, football can happen but only takers can miss penalties.
“He scored an incredible goal [vs. Burnley], but an aggressive approach with the ball to go to the full-backs, the movement between the full-backs, especially in the second half with Phil, [Foden] was so good. The second half Bernardo [Silva] moved better in that position and we made a good performance.
“But we knew it — [Mahrez] is a talented player and a guy who likes to play with the ball and he doesn’t miss balls. In the box, he is a dangerous guy because he can go to the byline or score with his left or his right, he is a good signing for us.”
Kevin De Bruyne also played his first minutes in more than two months as he came on as a 58th minute substitute after recovering from lateral knee ligament damage.
Guardiola says the Belgian has recovered from his setback and does not need much time to get his place back in the starting XI.
“He has no pain, physically he is a guy who is so strong, he needs minutes, this is the first time he played 30 minutes and this is so important,” Guardiola added. “We have a lot of games but of course he’s not new — not like Riyad — [we’ve spent] three years together so when I say something he knows what we have to do.
“He’s another important player and he’s back and will help us to achieve what we want to do. The first target is to play good. From the beginning, we spoke about that.”
Despite the comfortable scoreline, Burnley boss Sean Dyche was unhappy with the performance of referee Jon Moss. He thought City captain Vincent Kompany should have been sent off in the first minute for a high challenge and that the second goal should have been ruled out because the ball went out of play.
“I don’t like red cards if they can be not given, but that one is a red card,” Dyche told a news conference. “He [Kompany] is out of control, he doesn’t know where the ball is, he doesn’t know where the man is. It’s just a throw of the leg. It’s high and [Aaron Lennon] has got two stitches. There is no control. We are told control is a big thing.”
On Bernardo Silva’s goal he added: “With the best view as we can get, the ball is out of play. The biggest learning curve for our players is you have to stay focused.”