Brentford 0 Man City 1: Phil Foden's early strike moves champions EIGHT points clear at top of Premier League

THEY could have at least waited until the New Year before wrapping up the title.

A 10th successive Premier League win for Manchester City – albeit hard fought – was probably less of a surprise than Liverpool’s loss at Leicester 24 hours earlier.

While Pep Guardiola’s team moved eight points clear at the top, courtesy of Chelsea’s draw against Brighton, City’s lead could be extended to 11 points by early Saturday lunchtime.

There will be plenty of football to look forward to throughout 2022 but certainly at this stage, a thrilling scrap at top for the championship will not be one of them.

It was not vintage City as they got caught up in the seemingly long grass of Brentford’s pitch. For all their possession – and there was certainly a lot of it – they did not threaten as much as you would expect.

But thanks to a fine first half goal from Phil Foden, they did enough which, with the games coming thick and fast, will be more than enough for Guardiola.

He will now keep his team in London over the next few days before heading to Arsenal on Saturday.

During this time, you would expect that both Foden and Jack Grealish will resist the temptation of nipping out into Soho for some nightlife action.

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Phil Foden opens for scoring for Man CityCredit: Getty
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Phil Foden wheels off in celebrationCredit: Getty

Yet if City are to give their rivals some hope – with Liverpool visiting Chelsea on Sunday – then they must let Mikel Arteta’s team keep all three points.

But you would not bet on it as Guardiola’s team are just too good for their rivals. During 2021, they have amassed 110 points from 44 games. To put that into perspective, this is 27 more than Chelsea.

City certainly did not have everything their own way against a Brentford team who were missing 11 players due to injuries and Covid 19 issues but still fought bloody hard.

Maybe their groundsman also took Christmas off as the pitch certainly seemed to have a lot of grass which cynics would suggest slowed down City’s passing moves.

Shandon Baptiste delivered the first shot of the game, which resulted in a City throw yet Brentford caused a few moments of panic in the visiting defence.

Since promotion, Brentford, to their credit, have changed their style and play far more directly. When it works, as Liverpool discovered here in a 3-3 draw, they can be extremely tough to play against.

After Joao Cancelo was caught dithering, Frank Onyeka caused some real panic when he charged into the visiting area but drove a shot straight at Ederson.

The City keeper displayed some decent reflexes by preventing a Brentford opener after Ruben Dias directed Yoane Wissa’s cross towards his own goal.

Cancelo headed an effort of Wissa off the line but like true champions, just when they were feeling the heat during an early bombardment, City unleashed their own spectacular ammo.

It was all over in a flash. In their first proper attack of the game, City sliced through the home defence when De Bruyne’s perfectly-weighted, first-time cross was met with a stunning finish from Phil Foden.

The England international, although just six yards out, made this effort look far easier than it actually was, but he displayed some remarkable technique to execute the volley when many others would have made a complete mess of the effort.

There was a VAR check for offside and it looked close but Foden was eventually able to celebrate his seven goal of what will surely prove to be the best season of his career.

The game got a bit spikey as Toney fell to the floor clutching his foot after Fernandinho stood on his opponents’ toes after the whistle.

And a minute later, Toney appeared to get lucky as he rushed over to Ferandinho and appeared to sink his studs into the Brazilian’s leg.

It looked like a red card. But looking at both spats, Toney and Fernandinho were behaving as badly as each other.

Despite suffering the odd scare in that first half, City still enjoyed 81 per cent possession and Foden came close to adding a second with a glancing header 60 second into the second half.

Foden then stuck the ball past Alvaro Fernandez with a powerful header but was offside

It was another disappointing night for Jack Grealish as a false nine and as ever, it was De Bruyne at the heart of all of City’s menace.

The Belgian hammered a shot against the foot of the post but there was a spell midway inside the second half where Brentford caused City some major discomfort with their direct, high energy football.

Ultimately, though, Ederson was still not given too much to worry about.

Towards the end, City’s fans packed into a corner of this tight ground were singing ‘Mind the gap Man United’ with the gulf between these two currently standing at 22 points – 50 to 28.

Come the end of the season, the difference between these two rivals will be even greater.

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