Manchester City fought back from a goal down to beat Brentford 3-1 at the Gtech Community Stadium on Monday. The three-time defending champions are now within two points of leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
The Sky Blues began the game on the stronger foot but against the run of play, Neal Maupay fired the Bees in front with a cool finish on the break after only 21 minutes.
Phil Foden, just minutes after seeing a close-range attempt blocked, leveled proceedings for City in the first-half injury time, capitalizing on a poor clearance by Ethan Pinnock.
Foden then turned the game around with a second goal just nine minutes into the second half, this time heading home a lovely cross from Kevin De Bruyne, before completing his hat-trick in the 70th minute. Erling Haaland laid him off with a simple pass, as Foden then raced through Brentford’s defense before coolly slotting it home for 3-1.
City’s title defense is very much alive and the pressure is now back on Liverpool, whereas Brentford succumbed to their fourth defeat of the last five games to remain stuck in 15th.
Here are the five hits and flops from the match:
Hit: Phil Foden (Manchester City)
Manchester City’s hat-trick hero of the evening, Phil Foden was at the top of his attacking game at the Gtech Community Stadium and took Brentford to the cleaners with his devastating finishing.
For his first two goals, Foden made use of the space in behind the Bees’ defense, but the England international’s third was straight out of the top drawer. He ran through the centre of Brentford’s defense following a neat one-two with Erling Haaland. The England international dragged four of their players along with him before making a composed finish at the near post for his treble.
Flop: Ivan Toney (Brentford)
Despite spending eight months on the sidelines because of a ban for breaching the FA’s betting rules, Ivan Toney made a triumphant return to Brentford last month, scoring in his first two appearances.
He could be excused for being eager to make it a hat-trick of games scored in, but Manchester City foiled those aspirations by keeping the striker at arm’s length. Ruben Dias had the man covered, limiting his movements and cutting off all the supply lines to him.
Toney finished the game without a single effort on target and just 10 passes completed in over 90 minutes of action while losing possession 13 times. His only notable contribution was blocking Nathan Ake to allow Neal Maupay to race clear and score Brentford’s opener.
Hit: Mark Flekken (Brentford)
How can a goalkeeper who conceded thrice in a match be considered a ‘hit’, you ask? Get this – 12 saves made in the match, including four from inside the box, and creating one big chance that led directly to Brentford’s opener, thereby bagging the assist for it.
Flekken was like an unbeatable fortress in the opening stanza, making himself equal to everything thrown at him by the English champions. Even if their defense was breached, Flekken stood firm to deny City, keeping the Bees in the game.
The Dutchman even made a huge impact offensively by creating the game’s opening goal. He slammed a goal-kick far enough for Maupay, the farthest Brentford player standing, to chase it while being unmarked before slotting it home past Ederson.
Flop: Ethan Pinnock (Brentford)
So often a reliable figure in Brentford’s defense, Ethan Pinnock came a cropper for two of City’s goals as the centre-back endured a nightmare against the reigning champions.
First, he made a poor clearance that fell kindly for Foden to slot home their equalizer, and then couldn’t close him down for their third goal despite being within inches of the player.
Hit: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Is it possible that Manchester City fought back from a deficit to win a match and Kevin De Bruyne had no role to play behind it? The Belgian ace pulled the strings for his side once again, even bagging an assist for Foden’s second goal with a lovely cross from over the top of Brentford’s defense.
A creative inspiration for City as always, De Bruyne laid a staggering 22 crosses in the game, constantly feeding the more advanced players, in addition to laying four key passes too.
A goal or two would’ve been the perfect icing on the cake for the 32-year-old, who capped off another stunning performance.