Manchester City and Chelsea moved towards touching distance of the Premier League summit on Saturday as Sheffield United and Burnley remained winless at the other end of the table.
City have yet to hit the free-scoring form of Pep Guardiola’s side at their best, as for the third consecutive league game they were held to a solitary goal.
But Kyle Walker’s long-range strike against his former club was good enough to earn a 1-0 win at goal-shy Sheffield United.
A fourth win in five games in all competition edges City up to eighth but within two points of joint-leaders Everton, Liverpool and Wolves in a concertinaed table.
And there was another boost for City after the game as Pep Guardiola ruled out a return to Barcelona despite interest from presidential candidates at the Catalan giants to bring the club’s most successful ever coach back to the Camp Nou.
“I said many times, my period as a manager in Barcelona is over,” said Guardiola, whose contract at the Etihad expires at the end of the season.
“I am incredibly happy here, still I have the desire to do well and this is the most important thing.”
On the field, there were plenty of positives for City as the newly-formed centre-back pairing of Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias played their part in a second consecutive clean sheet.
However, without injured strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, City struggled to turn their dominance into goals.
“We played really well,” added Guardiola. “We struggled to score goals for the chances we created, 16 shots, eight on target, is a lot against this team.”
Instead, Walker was the unlikely match-winner with his first goal for a year in his 100th Premier League appearance for City.
Chelsea hit their stride
Chelsea are also finding their form after a slow start to the season as Frank Lampard’s men ran out 3-0 winners at Burnley to stretch their unbeaten run to nine games.
Hakim Ziyech was handed his first Premier League start after scoring in a 4-0 Champions League win away to Krasnodar in midweek and the Moroccan’s shot wrong-footed Nick Pope to open the floodgates for the visitors on 26 minutes.
Kurt Zouma’s bullet header then doubled Chelsea’s advantage from Mason Mount’s corner just after the hour mark.
Timo Werner was due to be rested until an injury in the warm-up to Christian Pulisic forced the German international into Lampard’s line-up.
And Werner rounded off an excellent second-half performance from the Blues with a fine finish from Ziyech’s pass.
After much criticism of his side’s defending, Lampard will be equally delighted at a fourth straight clean sheet as Chelsea moved into the top four, just one point off the top.
However, Liverpool have the chance to move three points clear when the champions host West Ham at Anfield later on Saturday.