The game: City 5-1 Burnley
Date: December 29, 2001
The story: It was the biggest game of the season so far.
Burnley, top of the league and four points ahead of City, visited Maine Road in a top-of-the-table Division One match.
A 0-0 draw in our previous game at home to West Brom had halted our progress somewhat – but this was a chance for City to gain ground on the frontrunners.
Indeed, we did more than gain ground. We sent a clear message we were title contenders, outclassing Burnley and sparking a run of fine form that catapulted us back into the Premier League.
We were 4-0 up at half-time, with mercurial striker Paulo Wanchope bagging a scintillating hat-trick.
His first, after just two minutes, was a close-range strike, finishing off a sweeping move down City’s left involving Danny Tiatto, Ali Benarbia and Shaun Goater.
The perfect start.
But the visitors weren't here to make up the numbers. They had an opportunity to level from the spot – but Carlo Nash saved Glenn Little’s penalty - and moments later Kevin Horlock cleared one off the line from Kevin Ball.
City soon reasserted dominance, though. Wanchope doubled our lead with a first-time finish from Benarbia’s fine throughball, and our third was perhaps our best, Eyal Berkovic slamming home a low drive after some wonderful one- and two-touch football from Tiatto, Wanchope and Goater.
And on the stroke of half-time, Berkovic turned provider as he played in Wanchope, who fired home left-footed from a tight angle.
For Wanchope, freshly returned from injury, it was a memorable day.
"I was coming back from injury," he says. "It was special to score a hat trick. I always say the atmosphere at Maine Road was special – something I never experienced before that.
"So to be able to score three goals in first half and have fun after being injured, it was great for me.
"I remember playing in a side with good players like Berkovic, Benarbia, Goater – this makes things easier for a striker."
Burnley got one back on the hour mark through Ian Moore as they capitalised on a poor kick from Nash, but our four-goal lead was restored when Darren Huckerby finished a move that travelled the full length of the pitch.
It was a performance that summed City under Keegan up: fearless, ruthless, cavalier. The league leaders had been completely outplayed and no one inside Maine Road that day left in any doubt about City’s title credentials.
"Kevin Keegan was very charismatic, enthusiastic and gave is freedom to play," Wanchope says. "It was a good year, a good attacking team and we took the club forward.
"For me, I had a great relationship with Kevin. It was a great inspiration to play with him. I never had a problem."
The win sparked a fine sequence of results that saw us win 12 and draw one of 14 First Division games.
City ended the season as champions, securing promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking with 99 points.
It was a brilliant campaign, defined by the attacking philosophy introduced by Keegan. We scored 108 league goals and played with two No.10s for the majority of the season, leaving memories that will last a lifetime for the City fans who were there to see it unfold.
Man City: Nash, Howey, Wiekens (Dunne 21), Mettomo, Edghill (Wright-Phillips 80), Benarbia, Berkovic, Horlock, Tiatto, Wanchope, Goater (Huckerby 65).
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Haaland. Booked: Mettomo.
Burnley: Michopoulos, West (Papadopoulos 71), Cox, Gnohere, Briscoe, Little, Ball, Grant, Alan Moore, Taylor, Ian Moore (Ellis 81).
Subs Not Used: Cennamo, Armstrong, Johnrose.
Referee: M Messias (York).]
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