Manchester City 1-0 Brentford: Haaland fires City to within a point of Premier League leaders Liverpool

Brentford ended up on the winning side of their last expedition to the Etihad Stadium in November 2022, courtesy of an Ivan Toney brace that included a dramatic 98th-minute winner. Staggeringly though, Manchester City are undefeated in 47 matches played on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in front of their own supporters – dating back to May 2010.

MCI: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Akanji, Rodri; Foden, Silva, Bobb, Álvarez; Haaland

BRE: Flekken; Jørgensen, Ajer, Mee; Roerslev, Onyeka, Nørgaard, Janelt, Reguilón; Wissa, Toney

Knowing a victory would close the gap to leaders Liverpool to only the solitary point, Manchester City flew out of the home dressing room with Erling Haaland and Phil Foden – who scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture at the beginning of this month – forced Mark Flekken into early saves after only three minutes. In response, on his first full start since returning from his spell at the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Frank Onyeka brought Flekken’s goalkeeping counterpart Ederson into an admittedly routine save.

Continuing their early dominance, the hosts again threatened the game’s opening goal with two quick-fire efforts from the boot of Julián Álvarez flying wide of the mark. However, frustratingly, the half would end how it started for Pep Guardiola’s reigning Premier League champions as only an awe-inspiring save from Flekken denied a marauding-forward Rúben Dias his first goal of the season.

Not familiar with experiencing the taste of defeat on their footballing palates, City again went in pursuit of taking another step to winning a hat-trick of top flight titles as Rodri headed over the crossbar not long after the restart. Nonetheless, the deadlock was finally broken in the 71st minute by none other than the player leading the race for the 2023/24 Golden Boot, with Haaland’s clinical one-one-one effort leaving Flekken with no chance of making a save.

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The towering Norwegian striker, who has now sensationally scored against all of the sides he has encountered in the Premier League, thought he had doubled the tally nine minutes later. However, VAR roared to Brentford’s rescue after the eagle-eye discovery of a marginal offside in the build-up.

Flekken would again deny Foden a fourth head-to-head goal this season, but ultimately the England international’s fruitless evening in front of goal would not have any impact on the final score in Manchester.

Another win sees Manchester City move above Arsenal into second position in the Premier League table ahead of their trip to Bournemouth on Saturday. Meanwhile, Brentford’s dismay decline continues as the Bees are now only five points ahead of the hotly-congested relegation battle to avoid plying their trade in the Championship next season.