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Man City win to close gap at top but De Bruyne suffers hamstring scare

Erling Haaland’s second-half goal moved Manchester City one point behind Premier League leaders Liverpool as they beat Brentford 1-0.

City endured a tense evening until Haaland benefitted from Kristoffer Ajer’s slip to score the winner after 71 minutes, putting the frustration of Saturday’s nine missed chances against Chelsea behind him.

Haaland’s PL full-house

Erling Haaland has now scored against all 21 Premier League teams that he has faced.

Bernardo Silva’s glaring first-half miss and Ben Mee’s clearance off the line to deny Oscar Bobb on his first league start had only added to the anxiety at the Etihad, but Haaland’s 17th league goal secured a seventh league win in eight games for the hosts.

City move a point above Arsenal having taken advantage of their game in hand, while keeping the pressure on Liverpool who host Luton on Wednesday night in the league. The champions face Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal in a daunting run of March fixtures.

Man City’s March Madness – all live on Sky Sports

  • Man City vs Man Utd, March 3
  • Liverpool vs Man City, March 10
  • Brighton vs Man City, March 17
  • Man City vs Arsenal, March 31
Manchester City's Bernardo Silva runs during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Brentford at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Image: Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva missed a glorious first-half chance with his head

Pep Guardiola revealed after the game that Kevin De Bruyne, an unused substitute, was not fit enough to play because he was feeling his hamstring. “It’s just a precaution but he didn’t feel comfortable and so after five months off we didn’t take any risk,” he said.

Brentford had their chances but were wasteful again as Frank Onyeka and Yoane Wissa failed to capitalise when through in the first half. Thomas Frank’s side are five points above the relegation zone after just two wins in their last 11 league games.

Player ratings

Man City: Walker (8), Stones (7), Dias (7), Akanji (8), Rodri (8), Silva (6), Bobb (7), Alvarez (7), Foden (7), Haaland (8).

Subs: Doku (6), Kovacic (N/A).

Brentford: Flekken (7), Jorgensen (6), Ajer (5), Mee (6), Roerslev (6), Onyeka (6), Norgaard (5), Janelt (5), Reguilon (5), Wissa (5), Toney (6).

Subs: Maupay (6), Jensen (5), Lewis-Potter (5), Ghoddos (N/A), Damsgaard (N/A).

Player of the match: Erling Haaland.

How Man City beat Brentford

Man City bossed possession early on but it was Brentford that had the better of the chances as John Stones had to be alert to slide clear Toney’s through ball to Wissa. City were most vulnerable on the break and perhaps should have been punished.

Frank Onyeka – yet to score for Brentford in 67 games – was one-on-one with Ederson at an angle but shot straight at the Man City goalkeeper. Wissa could do no better when in on goal, his poor headed touch taking the chance away from him.

Team news

Oscar Bobb, 20, made his first Premier League start for Manchester City as the champions left Kevin De Bruyne on the bench.

John Stones and Bernardo Silva made up City’s three changes as Jeremy Doku and Nathan Ake also dropped to the bench.

Yoane Wissa replaced Neal Maupay up front for Brentford in his first start after AFCON, while Mathias Jorgensen came in for Nathan Collins at the back.

Frank Onyenka was Brentford’s third change, coming in for Mathias Jensen.

Haaland, who had not scored in his last two games for City, endured more frustration in the first half despite his best efforts. Toney and Manuel Akanji both came close with efforts from range, with the Man City defender seeing his shot tipped over.

The tension grew at the Etihad as City toiled in the final third. The mood wasn’t helped by the sight of Silva missing from five yards out. Bobb also had a shot cleared off the line by Ben Mee as Brentford clung on.

City showed no sign of finding a breakthrough after the break as Brentford kept them at bay. The visiting side again showed more promise going forward and could have seen Toney test Ederson one-on-one had Onyeka found the striker with a through ball.

As the wait for a goal went on, the decision to leave De Bruyne on the bench looked more and more puzzling. Guardiola later explained he was not risked due to a niggle in his hamstring.

Brentford’s resistance was broken after an unfortunate slip by Ajer, which allowed Haaland clean through, as the Bees were made to pay for their profligacy for a second game running after the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool.

Haaland finished convincingly past Flekken, scoring his first goal against Brentford, to claim a Premier League full house and secure a vital win for his side, who are now 10 games unbeaten in the league ahead of a decisive month in the title race.

Man City’s March Madness – all live on Sky Sports

  • Man City vs Man Utd, March 3
  • Liverpool vs Man City, March 10
  • Brighton vs Man City, March 17
  • Man City vs Arsenal, March 31

Pep praises City and reveals De Bruyne injury

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Pep Guardiola praises Man City after their win and reveals why Kevin De Bruyne stayed on the bench

Man City manager Pep Guardiola:

“Brentford are such a difficult team to play against. Last season they took six points from us. They are incredibly organised. Toney is a master player at keeping the ball, he’s an incredible player.

“After that they are really good in all details, throw ins and free kicks and so on.

“We played a really good game, we had a lot of chances considering how tough it is to create against them. Our game in hand, we won it and now we recover. Now we come to the toughest period of the season.”

On his missing captain, he added: “Today we could not use Kevin because he had niggles in his hamstring and I didn’t want to take a risk,” he said, adding: “He’s okay. It’s just a precaution but he didn’t feel comfortable and so after five months off we didn’t take any risk.”

Mills backing City to win title again

Former Man City defender Danny Mills on Soccer Special:

“It was a fantastic finish from Erling Haaland through one on one. Clearly he is not lacking in any confidence.

“Brentford were unfortunate, their gameplan was almost perfect. It was nine, 10, 11 men behind the ball at times and they frustrated City.

“But as champions do, City found a way. Games like that you have to win. City have managed to do that.

“It’s going to be a fantastic title race but my money is still on City.

“City have big games to come but if they come through that unscathed they are almost champions elect.”

Frank on slip: City don’t need that luck!

Brentford boss Thomas Frank:

“Incredibly proud of the team and very pleased with the performance. We know they are the best team in the league and the world – very difficult to close down.

“We limited them to very little. The Bernardo Silva header and the Bobb chance that was cleared off the line. Until the goal, because of the slip. They are good enough, they don’t need that luck to get them over the line.

“For me in the second half we were in control defensively. I think we were getting close to getting something and we had a few opportunities. We are back to that high level defensive urgency, which I am pleased with.

“It seems the margins are not going our way but we need to keep believing.”

Opta stats: Man City’s unbeaten home run continues

  • Manchester City stretched their unbeaten home run in all competitions to 35 games (W30 D5), while they’ve found the net in each of their last 54 at the Etihad Stadium.
  • Man City’s Erling Haaland has now scored against all 21 teams he’s faced in the Premier League – he’s just the second player to have faced more than one side and scored against all of them in the competition, after Harry Kane (32/32).
  • Erling Haaland’s opener for Man City was the seventh time he’s scored the first goal in a Premier League match this season, more than any other player. It also ended up being his fifth winning goal in the competition this term, with no player netting more (Ollie Watkins also 5).
  • Brentford have lost 11 of their last 14 Premier League games (W3), as many as they had in their previous 46 combined (W18 D17).

What’s next?

Saturday 24th February 5:00pm Kick off 5:30pm

Sky Sports Premier League HD Sky Sports Premier League HD

City travel to Bournemouth on Saturday Night Football (kick-off 5.30pm), while Brentford visit West Ham United on Monday Night Football (kick-off 8pm), with both games live on Sky Sports.

Monday 26th February 6:30pm Kick off 8:00pm

Sky Sports Premier League HD Sky Sports Premier League HD

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