Erling Haaland was upstaged on his return from injury by fellow striker Julian Alvarez as Manchester City strolled to victory against Burnley.

Haaland made his first appearance since fracturing his foot in the defeat at Aston Villa on 6 December when he was introduced as a 71st-minute substitute at Etihad Stadium.

However, while the Norwegian’s major involvement was to draw laughs from team-mates Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic on the bench when he mis-kicked what was intended to be a shot on the turn, Alvarez turned 24 in style.

The Argentine took the man-of-the-match honours by becoming just the 10th player to score two goals or more on their birthday in a Premier League game.

Both efforts came in the opening period. Matheus Nunes chipped a superb cross into the six-yard box for Alvarez to head home in the 16th minute.

And just six minutes later, Alvarez profited from a brilliantly worked training ground free-kick routine as Kevin de Bruyne shaped to curl a cross into the box but instead rolled a perfect 20-yard pass which just needed the first-time finish.

Rodri added a third in trademark fashion in the opening minute of the second-half, driving home Phil Foden’s cut-back from the edge of the area.

Burnley boss, and former City captain, Vincent Kompany would have been pleased with the way his side kept battling until the end.

They were at least able to grab an injury-time consolation as defender Ameen Al-Dakhil bundled in their first goal in seven visits to this stadium since 2018.

They were ultimately powerless, though, to stop second-placed City’s eighth successive win in all competitions – and 13th consecutive victory against second-bottom Burnley.

City are five points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand, and level with third-placed Arsenal as they pursue an unprecedented fourth consecutive league title.

And boss Pep Guardiola believes his side need a significant winning run if they are to retain the title.

“With this Liverpool that we have faced for eight years, and Arsenal, with Mikel [Arteta] who has settled his squad, I don’t have the feeling that they’re going to drop much points,” he said.

“We have to win as many games as possible and, at the end, we will see what happens.”

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