Football

Five things we learned from Brentford 1-3 Man City

Man City manager Pep Guardiola

Manchester City had to come from behind to beat Brentford as Phil Foden scored a brilliant hat-trick to send his side just two points behind leaders Liverpool and with a game in hand on their rivals.

Here are five things we learned from City’s victory…

PHIL FODEN IS PRICELESS

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If Jack Grealish is worth £100m, what price is Phil Foden, the man keeping him out of City’s side, worth? Foden’s hat-trick at Brentford showed why the former Villa midfielder cannot get a game. Apart from his creativity and versatility, Foden is a natural-born killer in front of goal. He has now scored 14 goals in all competitions for City this season, his best return in a season, while Grealish has only scored three times in 27 games so far. No wonder City fans were singing “he’s one or our own” about the Stockport Iniesta.

FULL STRENGTH CITY WILL TAKE SOME BEATING

This was the first time since the opening game of the season that Pep Guardiola has been able to pick a full-strength side, with Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne starting together for the first time since the Belgian limped off 23 minutes into City’s win at Burnley in August. And despite having to come from behind to beat Brentford, City had enough chances to win three games – mostly denied by a superb display by Mark Flekken in the Bees goal. Guardiola’s men are famous for coming good when it matters – in May – and they must now be favourites to lift Premier League title for a record fourth successive time.

MARK FLEKKEN IS PUTTING UP A FIGHT FOR HIS PLACE

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When Thomas Frank signed Hakon Valdimarsson from Elfsborg in January, it was wondered whether Mark Flekken’s days were numbered. But the Dutch keeper, who took over from Arsenal-bound David Raya last summer, had a superb game against the European Champions, making nine saves in the first-half alone and going close to equalling the Premier League record of 14 saves in a game, held jointly by Tim Krul of Newcastle, Sunderland’s Vito Mannone and David De Gea of Manchester United.

IVAN TONEY IS MORE THAN A GOALSCORER

Much has been made of the Brentford striker’s ability to score goals and hold up the ball, but the Bees number 17 has more to his game. His sheer presence allowed Neal Maupay to open the scoring for Brentford, the former Brighton man running through unnoticed as City’s central defenders Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake were taken up trying to prevent Toney from reaching Flekken’s long ball from the back. And twice Toney fired in dangerous crosses that Bryan Mbeumo, currently injured, would have seized on. Whoever signs Toney in the summer will be getting the full package – you can bet your house on it.

ERLING HAALAND STILL NOT FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS – YET

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The Norwegian is finding his way back after injury and has yet to regain the lethal finishing touch that brought him 52 goals in all competitions last season. He hit 19 for City in the first half season but has yet to find the net since returning, and hardly had a sniff of goal, with Flekken making a good save from Haaland’s one real chance. But he will no doubt get back to his usual levels as he gets more match fit and can still prove decisive for City in the run-in.

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