Phil Foden was the hero for Manchester City as he scored his second ever career hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over Brentford. The three points mean that Pep Guardiola’s side have closed the gap between themselves and table-topping Liverpool to just two points. They have a game in hand on both the Reds and Arsenal, who they moved level with after beating the Bees.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing on the night for City as Brentford took the lead at the Gtech Stadium through Neal Maupay following a well-worked goal-kick routine. The Frenchman latched onto Mark Flekken’s long ball to tuck a neat strike past the on-rushing Ederson.
City then continued to knock on the Brentford door and their patience was rewarded in the dying embers of the first half when Foden latched onto a defensive error to level the score from close range.
The playmaker then grabbed his second in the 53rd minute when cushioning his header past Flekken before completing the perfect hat-trick when coolly slotting home with his left foot following a neat pass from Erling Haaland. Express Sport takes a look at five key points from the goal-filled match on Monday night…
Foden steals the show
Foden has been forced to bide his time before being given regular opportunities in central areas regularly, and his patience has been rewarded. The England international’s electric displays have somewhat slipped under the radar at the Etihad Stadium, and he has now scored 14 and assisted nine in 34 league appearances so far this season, putting him on course to trump his tallies of 15 goals and eight assists in 48 last year.
Guardiola has consistently sung the praises of Foden for his displays as one of City’s No 10s, and even named him a lethal weapon earlier this week. He said: “When he plays in central positions he’s an incredible weapon. He has a sense of goal, a sense of assists, a sense of work ethic. His impact has been more than ever decisive in winning games. He’s learning how to play with tempo, before everything was energy, sometimes you have to play one touch, you don’t have to make an action all the time.”
Erling Haaland return
Despite not scoring against the Bees, the return of Haaland will have struck fear into the hearts of Liverpool and Arsenal. The Norwegian international is one of the few players capable of improving the star-studded City team and although his side have coped with his absence since late December, his return comes at the perfect time with an important few months ahead.
Gvardiol left-back experiment
City forked out £77million to sign Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig, but the Croatia international still does not look at home in Guardiola’s system. The 22-year-old has been tasked with playing in left-back for his new side but lacks the attacking know-how to truly make an impact in the final third. Several chances fell the way of Gvardiol against Brentford and one would imagine that some of his team-mates – such as Nathan Ake and Rico Lewis – could have done better with those opportunities.
Flekken deserved more
The scoreline does not do justice to the excellence of Flekken in between the sticks for Brentford. After a slow start to life in the Premier League, the goalkeeper is beginning to find his form for Thomas Frank’s side and produced several remarkable stops to keep City at bay, especially in the first half. The Dutchman made 12 saves in total, grabbing an assist as well.
Savio signs for City
City opted not to make any first-team acquisitions in the January transfer window, but they are already laying the foundations to improve further for next season. According to Fabrizio Romano, an agreement has been reached to sign Savio from Troyes.
The winger is currently on loan at Girona and has made a massive impact in the La Liga, scoring five goals and assisting another seven in 23 appearances. City will be hoping the Brazilian is just as effective in the Premier League once he joins.