After the carnival at the Emirates on Sunday, this was a little more sedate even though City had to come from behind. City’s intent now, though, is clear. Arsenal‘s win over Liverpool may have placed the London club back in the title race but it also served to put City back in control of it.
Guardiola’s team are not top of the Premier League but they will be if they win their game in hand, also against Brentford later this month. For the first time in a long time, City have their destiny in their own hands and that’s exactly the way they like it.
Here they were dominant throughout. Brentford actually scored first midway through the first half as Neal Maupay ran on to a long goal kick and slid his team in to the lead. No darts celebration as there had been when he scored at Spurs, just a slight pin prick placed in City’s ambitions for the evening.
For a while Brentford held firm against the pounding of City’s velvet first. Goalkeeper Mark Flekken was superb. By the time half-time neared, City had taken 16 shots and their seventeenth, delivered from 12 yards by Phil Foden, finally went in.
Phil Foden scored a fine hat-trick as Manchester City came from behind to beat Brentford
The City midfielder was on hand to finish, with assists from both Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland on the night
Pep Guardiola’s side have now again overtaken Arsenal to move into second in the Premier League table
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That wasn’t quite that for Brentford’s ambitions but it was the start of it. Foden scored twice in the second half to register a hat-trick. There were also 85 minutes for Erling Haaland, another night of progress for Kevin de Bruyne while City have John Stones, Jack Grealish and players like Jeremy Doku and young Oscar Bobb on the substitutes bench.
There is renewed hope at Arsenal. Liverpool will be driven on by the emotion and adrenaline of Jurgen Klopp’s long goodbye. So it should be a riveting title race. It will, however, still be a surprise if City don’t prevail once again and that’s simply because they remain the best team.
We haven’t really seen the best of them this season. Haaland himself said only last week that the intensity of last season’s treble success, coupled with a short summer, had left the City dressing room shaking lethargy from their legs and maybe their minds through the autumn. But there has been a tangible uptick in purpose, intensity and perhaps belief since they returned from Saudi Arabia as Club World Cup champions in late December. Since then City have gone WWWWWW and there is nothing on their immediate horizon in terms of fixtures that suggests that run will do anything but go on and on from this point forwards.
It will not be easy. It never is. The Champions League restarts next week with a trip to Copenhagen. That will bring with it some complications of its own. But Arsenal are also in the Champions League while Liverpool have Thursday Europa League football to deal with. So the playing field is level and when that happens the best teams tend to win.
Here in west London they were superior from the off. Flekken saved from Julian Alvarez twice in succession early on while Ethan Pinnock denied Haaland with a timely block on the six-yard line. De Bruyne was also denied by the goalkeeper’s fingertips while Flekken dived right to turn away a fizzing Kyle Walker drive after seemingly seeing it late.
It felt as though a goal must come quickly and indeed it did, to Brentford.
Brentford did however take the lead through Neal Maupay, with a long goal kick stunning the champions
Kevin de Bruyne was in fine form once again, though, providing a fine assist for Foden’s second
It’s hard to recall the last time – if ever – a Guardiola team has conceded a goal like this one and it was perhaps fitting that Flekken was involved. The long goal kick delivered upfield in the 21st minute may well have been headed away by Nathan Ake but with Ivan Toney blocking the City defender’s progress, Maupay was able to run through untracked to slide his fifth goal in five games underneath goalkeeper Ederson and in to the corner.
Maupay was thrilled and his recent upturn in form has been significant. But Toney took his share of the congratulations, too, which suggested City had just fallen victim to a Brentford training ground plan.
City may well have been shocked but they almost replied immediately, Haaland running clear only to be denied by Flekken’s legs.
City did eventually equalise before half-time, but only by a matter of seconds. Another in a series of De Bruyne crosses was actually his worst of the half but when Pinnock misjudged the flight and headed weakly to Foden, he controlled the ball and drove it in from 12 yards or so.
That was the beginning of the end for Brentford. Foden’s second goal, in the 53rd minute, was a neat stooping header from, of course, De Bruyne’s cross, Pinnock’s failure to step out with his team-mates playing the goal scorer onside.
Brentford had their opportunities, particularly at 2-1, but City stood firm and eventually got their third goal
Foden took home the match ball, securing his hat-trick in the 70th minute after being teed up by Haaland
Brentford could have collapsed but they don’t tend to do that here. Instead, they briefly rallied as a Christian Norgaard short was blocked by Ruben Dias when it appeared to be heading in. Then Josko Gvardiol did likewise to frustrate Maupay before Toney connected well on the volley only to fizz the ball over.
This brief flurry of activity in the City penalty area was spread across just six minutes and that was as good as it got. In the 70th minute Foden was first to a loose ball 14 yards out and drove in the goal that ended what had been a contest of contrasting styles but all the more watchable because of it.
Source From: Premier League News, Fixtures and Results | Mail Online
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