Phil Foden scored a superbly constructed hat-trick as Manchester City turned on the flair to record a 3-1 comeback victory at struggling Brentford on Monday, bringing them within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool with one game in hand.
Despite virtually continuous City pressure, Brentford grabbed the lead with a Neal Maupay strike after 21 minutes, only for Foden to equalize just before halftime and add two more fine goals as the visitors seized control with another masterful show of possession and probing.
Liverpool, who lost to Arsenal on Sunday, leads the standings with 51 points from 23 games, Manchester City has 49 from 22 and Arsenal has 49 from 23.
“He always had an eye for a goal,” City manager Pep Guardiola remarked of Foden. “He’s played 250 games already and has made an impact with goals this season. “He is incredible.”I believe we earned it, but they are a really difficult opponent. We had a lot of opportunities, and their goalkeeper was fantastic.”
Brentford completed the double against City last season, defeating them 1-0 in London in the last game in May when the championship was already secured, after winning 2-1 at the Etihad in November.
Another victory seemed doubtful following the one-sided early exchanges on Monday, when Julian Alvarez twice and Kyle Walker had curling attempts saved by Brentford keeper Mark Flekken.
Brentford, however, struck first with a Sunday football goal, as Flekken blasted a goal kick that Nathan Ake, under pressure from Ivan Toney, failed to touch. After 21 minutes, Maupay had a free run at goal and gently tucked it into the bottom corner.
Maupay was unable to purchase a goal while at Everton, but has since scored five goals in his past five outings in all competitions while on loan at Brentford.
Erling Haaland had an early opportunity to equalise, but Flekken saved again with his foot, this time from Josko Gvardial.
Brentford then earned a succession of corners, resulting in the unusual sight of nine of their players in the six-yard box, with just one outfield player from each side occupying the remaining 90 meters of green.
They came to naught, however, and City leveled in first-half stoppage time when Foden pounced on a poor clearing header, neatly chesting the ball down and flicking it in with his side’s 17th effort on goal of the half.
The ever-elusive Foden scored again in the 53rd minute, when Kevin de Bruyne flicked in a superb ball for the unmarked midfielder to swipe in.
Brentford made a flurry of opportunities, but City handled with them before Foden completed his triple with another cool finish after a one-two with Haaland in the 70th minute.
The reversal was unsurprising given that City had won their past three away league games after falling behind, whilst Brentford is the league’s poorest at squandering leads, having cost them just 26 points all season.
Brentford has three points from their past eight league games, losing seven of them, and has dropped to 15th place, three points above the relegation zone.
“It was a good overall performance for us; we did a lot of things correctly,” stated manager Thomas Frank.
“In the first half we defended very well and limited them to shots outside the box, but in the second half they got a tiny bit of space and that made the difference.”