Phil Foden ensured Man City took advantage of Liverpool’s slip at Arsenal to move within two points of the leaders as his hat-trick saw them come from behind to win 3-1 at Brentford.
The treble winners were stunned as Neal Maupay latched onto Mark Flekken’s long goal-kick for a route-one opener after 21 minutes, and they found the Brentford goalkeeper in inspired form as they sought an equaliser.
But just as Arsenal and Liverpool – both of whom have played a game more than City – were beginning to let themselves hope, Brentford’s resistance was broken when Ethan Pinnock’s weak clearance allowed Foden a simple finish moments before the break.
The midfielder then kept City’s charge back towards the top on track when he ghosted in to meet Kevin De Bruyne’s deep cross to complete the turnaround eight minutes into the second half.
Foden completed his own personal milestone with the second hat-trick of his career after latching onto Erling Haaland’s lay-off and coolly slotting home a third 20 minutes from time to seal City’s fifth successive league win, and 15th-placed Brentford’s seventh defeat in eight.
How Foden cast off City’s Brentford curse
Brentford’s pre-match video played around the ground reminded anyone still in doubt about their role as the only team to do a Premier League double over City in 2022/23.
Few gave them a chance of making it a hat-trick, but the hoodoo would not go quietly. From the Bees’ first chance of the game, Maupay slotted them ahead, latching onto Flekken’s long goal-kick after Ivan Toney held off Nathan Ake.
The City defence had anticipated Toney getting a touch which would have ruled the Frenchman offside, but it never came.
They would have envisaged an easier night against Flekken, too, given no team had saved a lower proportion of shots on target than Brentford this season coming into the game.
But they found the Dutchman in inspired form as he twice denied Julian Alvarez with full-length stops, though his sprawling save to keep out an Erling Haaland effort with his right boot was the pick of the bunch.
It made the manner of Man City’s equaliser on the stroke of the interval feel all the harsher, when Pinnock’s weak header under little pressure fell kindly for Foden and left the goalkeeper helpless to stop him levelling up.
He was less blameless for the midfielder’s second, a free header he could only get a glancing hand to, but Foden had been given the freedom of the penalty area after ghosting in between two defenders.
The pick of the bunch was yet to come. With Pinnock and Nathan Collins both lured towards Erling Haaland, the striker’s deft lay-off found Foden again untracked as he danced into the Brentford box and slotted home for his hat-trick.
Brentford could have given themselves hope of taking something from the game but for an acrobatic volley blazed over by Toney and a Christian Norgaard volley which was blocked by Ruben Dias at close range.
The hosts still paraded the pitch come the full-time whistle, following a performance making up in heart what it lacked in quality, while Foden led the charge to the away end with the match ball in hand and City’s surge to the top in full flow, their hopes of a fourth successive title firmly in their own hands.