Foden hat-trick at Brentford helps Manchester City to second

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Manchester City ominously ascended to second place in the Premier League standings, trailing leaders Liverpool by only two points, propelled by Phil Foden’s hat-trick, which served as the driving force behind a dominant victory over Brentford.

The home team initially seized the lead with Neal Maupay’s breakaway goal in the 21st minute. However, an outstanding performance by Brentford’s goalkeeper Mark Flekken, marked by a series of remarkable saves, kept the reigning champions at bay until Phil Foden struck just before halftime.

Foden’s goal injected City with the momentum they required, and he secured his second goal eight minutes into the second half, exploiting a gap in Brentford’s defense to redirect Kevin de Bruyne’s cross beyond the vulnerable Flekken.

Despite being dominated, Brentford had occasional opportunities to equalize, notably when Ivan Toney narrowly missed with a volley from close range. Nonetheless, City’s superiority was evident, and they sealed the victory 20 minutes before the final whistle when Foden skillfully converted Erling Haaland’s pass.

Tensions flared in the closing stages, resulting in a heated altercation between Kyle Walker and Maupay. Walker required intervention from manager Pep Guardiola to calm down, with Guardiola opting not to comment post-match.

City kicking into gear

Manchester City had to wait until the dying moments of the first half to finally overcome the exceptional performance of Flekken, but their persistence in bombarding the Brentford goal with shots ultimately paid off.

Despite Haaland still recovering from a foot injury and not yet at his usual lethal form, Foden took on the responsibility of scoring goals, securing the second senior hat-trick of his career, reminiscent of his three-goal performance in the 6-3 derby win over Manchester United in October 2022.

This was a foreboding display from City, not only as they edge closer to the top spot but also with the formidable pairing of Haaland and De Bruyne starting a game together for the first time since the league season’s opening night at Burnley back in August.

Traditionally, this time of year signals City’s peak performance, and the statistics suggest another formidable charge, with this victory marking their seventh successive win since clinching the Club World Cup with a triumph over Fluminense in late December.

With a victory over Everton at Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, City could ascend to the top of the table, further solidifying their dominance in the Premier League title race.

Flekken heroics not enough for Brentford

Brentford showcased their characteristic blend of energy and resilience but ultimately found themselves outmatched by Manchester City.

However, there is no discredit to Thomas Frank’s team in this defeat. Until the dying seconds of the first half, when Ethan Pinnock inadvertently directed a header into Foden’s path, Brentford harbored hopes of an improbable victory, especially after Maupay calmly finished following a long goal-kick from Flekken.

The standout factor behind Brentford’s resilience was undoubtedly the virtuoso performance of Flekken. He displayed magnificence as City unleashed 17 shots, with 10 on target, in the opening 45 minutes alone. Flekken thwarted attempts from Julian Alvarez twice, denied Haaland with his feet, and made crucial saves against Kyle Walker, Josko Gvardiol, De Bruyne, and Foden before the latter finally breached his defense.

Despite the eventual outcome, Brentford had positives to take away from the match, including Maupay’s goal in his fifth consecutive game. This streak marks a resurgence for Maupay, who struggled during his time at Everton, scoring just one goal in 32 appearances, including 14 starts.

Ultimately, City, particularly Foden, proved to be too formidable for Brentford to handle.