- Daniel Gallagher-Parker
Phil Foden guides City to 10 consecutive Premier League wins – Brentford 0-1 Manchester City Review
Manchester City end 2021 after extending their lead at the top to eight points with a 1-0 win away against Brentford. A first-half goal from Phil Foden was enough to see City collect all three points.
In City's final game of what has been an incredibly successful year, it wasn't a surprise to see Pep Guardiola make several changes to his starting XI to face Brentford. Recently 'punished' Jack Grealish and Phil Foden join Gabriel Jesus to make up a completely changed front three.
With the continued absences of John Stones, Kyle Walker and Rodri, Fernandinho retains his place as a defensive midfielder with Nathan Ake replacing Oleksander Zinchenko at left-back.
It was a fairly quiet opening 10 minutes to the game, with Shandon Baptiste having the only chance, if that's what you would call it. His snapshot from outside the box was very close to going out for a throw-in.
Brentford's high press caused a momentary issue for Ruben Dias, who lost the ball and Frank Onyeka was played in behind to try and make the difference, but his tame effort was easily stopped by Ederson.
It was a couple of minutes to forget for Dias as this time he tried to clear an incoming cross but he accidentally directed it towards his own goal which Ederson once again, had to stop the visitors from taking the lead.
From the resulting corner, Yoane Wissa's deflected shot caused a mass panic on the goal line with no one bar Joao Cancelo able to get a touch on it which fortunately clipped it around the post and away from danger.
Despite the heavy schedules and Covid scares, City are still able to be at their devastating best. Less than 60 seconds after the Portuguese's goal-line clearance, Foden had the ball in the back of the net with a very calm and intelligent finish, to guide home an exquisite pass for De Bruyne's first Premier League assist of the season.
In typical De Bruyne fashion, he found a gap in the right-half space and picked out a wonderful pass which left the English youngster with a difficult type of finish, but of course, City's #47 was able to bring it down and pick his spot out perfectly while still using the pace of the pass, all in the same touch.
Nothing serious was created from either side after the opener as it became very much a stop-start game with referee David Coote being very trigger-happy with his whistle.
The Belgian and the Englishman nearly combined once again at the beginning of the second half, with the same style of pass whipped in, this time Foden looked to place it into the far corner by glancing it on with his head, but it went agonisingly wide.
The back-to-back PFA POTY winner was at the centre of every attack tonight, as he was teed up nicely to strike one from the edge of the box with his supposedly weaker foot, but it was straight at the keeper on this occasion.
Foden did this time, have the ball in the back of the net for a second, but rightfully so, the goal was ruled out for offside. This time it was Jesus who was the provider, and it was a very clean, well-caught header, but unfortunately, he strayed half a yard offside.
De Bruyne came close to scoring a great goal twice within as many seconds. His long-range driven effort smacked the centre of the near-post which eventually found its way back to the midfielder who attempted an audacious overhead kick that could only hit the side netting.
Brentford were not letting themselves be taken out of the game, they stood strong, defended well, kept possession as and when they could, and created a few half-chances but nothing that seriously worried the Brazilian goalkeeper.
Despite City's dominance on the ball, there were times where they were rather sloppy, attempting passes that weren't there to be made, misplacing simple passes and holding on to the ball for too long, all things Guardiola will be keeping an eye on going into the next fixture.
Aymeric Laporte, the City boss and everyone else in the ground thought he had put the game to bed with his superb header from a De Bruyne free-kick. However, the Spaniard was marginally offside, a very close and controversial call.
It wasn't the Sky Blues' best 90 minutes by any means, but when the teams around them are dropping points, it's important they continue picking them up, which they have done. And as everyone knows, these types of games are needed if City are going to go on and be successful once again in May.
Coote's full-time whistle not only brings an end to another record-breaking year for Guardiola and his players, but it also brings an end to a month of football that started with City one point behind title rivals Chelsea and one point above Liverpool.
City have also obliterated the top-flight wins in a calendar year record; setting a total of 36 wins in 2021 after surpassing the 33 wins set by Liverpool in 1982 against Newcastle before Christmas.
Ederson - 7
Cancelo - 7
Dias - 6
Laporte - 7
Ake - 8
Fernandinho - 7
De Bruyne - 8.5
Bernardo Silva - 7
Jesus - 6.5
Foden - 8
Grealish - 6
What's next for Manchester City?
As everyone knows the fixtures come thick and fast throughout the Christmas period, City kick off the New Year at 12:30 pm (GMT) on Saturday 1st January with an away trip to face Mikel Arteta's Arsenal – although the former City assistant manager will not be in the dugout after testing positive for Covid-19.
Guardiola's side head to London with the chance to extend their lead over second-placed Chelsea to 11 points, as Thomas Tuchel's side face Liverpool the day after.
Written by: @DanGP17_
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