Manchester City cut gap at top as Phil Foden hat-trick leads rally at Brentford


It had been billed as Erling Haaland’s grand comeback to the Manchester City starting XI. Perhaps there could be a shootout with Ivan Toney, the Brentford striker, who is also ­re-establishing himself after rather longer on the sidelines in the wake of his betting ban.

For a while, there was the ­glimmer that Neal Maupay could upstage them both when he gave Brentford a shock lead midway through a first half made memorable by the ­defiance of Mark Flekken in the home goal. But by the end, it was all about another attacker whose talent can seem utterly irresistible on nights like these.

The Premier League title is back in City’s hands after Liverpool’s defeat at Arsenal on Sunday – right where they like it. Phil Foden had the ball at his feet in front of goal, even his head at one point, and that is exactly where he likes it.

Foden does not score many with his head but he did so here to put City 2-1 up. He had got the equaliser – chest, bounce and finish – while he saved the best for the hat-trick, an explosion on to Haaland’s lay-off, each touch perfect, giving nobody close to him inside the area the ­slightest sniff.

City are on an ominous roll, ­winning all seven matches since their victorious return from the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Pep Guardiola said recently that he can feel the desire of his players to win and keep on winning. ­Brentford had done the double over City last season but nobody in the red and white stripes could stop Foden. Will anybody be able to do likewise with his team? The question pounds with increasing force.