Manchester City’s charge towards a second consecutive Premier League title continued as they downed a battling Brentford side at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday Night. A first half penalty by top scorer Riyad Mahrez was added to by Kevin de Bruyne in the second half as the blues edged their way past the London new boys.
It was City’s first Premier League game since the winter break and put the blues back on winning terms after fighting for a point at Southampton in January and once more puts them twelve points ahead of their nearest rivals.
In a surprising move, City boss Pep Guardiola named centre-back John Stones at right-back, leaving Kyle Walker on the bench, with Joao Cancelo starting at left back. Jack Grealish only made the bench and it’s worth pondering whether Guardiola left him and Walker out of the starting line-up following video footage of them on a night out with Mahrez. Stones didn’t look out of place and was rarely threatened by the Brentford attack, who spent most of their time in their own half than they did attacking the blues.
Although City were dominant in possession, it wasn’t a fluid performance, with mis-placed passes which looked to give Brentford the chance to break. Although when they did, they couldn’t see a way past the blues solid defence. And on the rare occasion they did, goalkeeper Ederson was more than equal to it, and was down just before half-time after going in bravely to prevent a Brentford equaliser.
That was the only chance of note for the visitors, who had gone behind a few minutes earlier. Raheem Sterling was brought down by a needless challenge from Mads Roerslev. Sterling was going nowhere when Roerslev took him out and Mahrez, City’s new penalty king, fired the blues in front.
The goal had been coming, with City slowly turning the screw on Brentford as the first half wore on. Cancelo had earlier fired over the bar and Aymeric Laporte, who had joined the attack, had fired inches wide after showing superb chest control, only to see his shot roll agonisingly wide.
City started the second half as they had ended the first, but, at only 1-0, there was always a chance that Brentford would have at least one chance. And, knowing City, they would probably have scored from it. So, it was a relieve to the faithful when de Bruyne rolled in City’s second after a horrible blunder by Brentford keeper Raya.
The Bees attempted to play the ball out from the back, but the keeper’s mis-placed pass was intercepted by Sterling. The England man latched onto the ball and, although Raya looked to have made amends with a good save, the rebound fell to de Bruyne, who side-footed home to make the points safe.
The blues continued to press and were denied a second penalty when substitute Ilkay Gundogan looked to have been brought down inside the penalty area, but the blues, and the watching faithful, were content with a 2-0 victory.
The win keeps the blues on course for a fifth Premier League title, and attention now turns to Saturday’s evening game at Norwich, before the blues return to Champions League action when they visit Sporting on Tuesday.
Final Score: Manchester City 2-0 Brentford