Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne inspire City victory – Manchester City 2-0 Brentford Review
Back in Premier League action for the first time since the 22nd of January, Pep Guardiola's side hosted Brentford at the Etihad, running out 2-0 winners.
A first-half Riyad Mahrez penalty and a Kevin De Bruyne rebound were enough for the Blues to pick up another crucial three points with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool lurking behind in search of any possible avenue back into the title race.
Despite a trip to Norwich and a UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie against Sporting Lisbon to come within the next six days, Guardiola still opted to field a strong starting XI with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling making the lineup. Although, many were left confused as to how the four defenders would lineup.
James McAtee and Liam Delap were once again on the bench.
The defensive confusion was soon cleared up with John Stones starting on the of the four and Joao Cancelo playing in his usual left-back role. Sterling occupied the left wing with Mahrez out on the right and Phil Foden in the false-nine.
Opportunities came few and far between in the opening moments, but as you would expect, the Blues dominated the ball – amassing an impressive 75% possession during the first half.
Despite that slow start, a flurry of chances came City's way 28 minutes in. Mahrez cut inside and fizzed across a low ball in towards Sterling. However, Brentford keeper David Raya was alert and managed to scramble the ball away but only as far as Cancelo who could only blast his effort over the bar.
Mahrez was once again involved with City's next attempt when he cut the ball back to Phil Foden. The City academy graduate then sent a cross towards Sterling but his acrobatic effort went sailing over the bar.
The closest of the three then followed when Aymeric Laporte controlled down a free-kick and drilled across the goal with his right-footed effort narrowly missing the far post.
As the half-time whistle loomed, Sterling charged down to the byline and was clipped from behind by defender Mads Roerslev for a clear penalty.
Riyad Mahrez stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way for his seventh Premier League goal, and more importantly, gave City a 1-0 lead into half-time.
Shortly after the start of the half, Cancelo nearly added a third. The Portuguese fullback skinned three Brentford defenders, in an immense show of skill. The resulting shot could only force Raya into a diving save down towards his left.
The Blues then added a second through Kevin De Bruyne. Under the City press, Raya gave the ball straight to Sterling just outside the penalty area. The Englishman then struck straight at Raya but the rebound found the path of De Bruyne, who slammed into the empty net.
Ederson (7), Stones (6), Dias (6), Laporte (6), Cancelo (8.5), Rodri (7), De Bruyne (8), Silva (6.5), Sterling (7), Mahrez (8), Foden (6).
Substitutes: Gundogan (6), Grealish (6).
In what was another controlling performance from City, they came up with the goods again. That's now 13 wins in the last 14 Premier League games and the Blues are showing no signs of slowing down. Cancelo was different class again, De Bruyne only looks like getting better, and although almost definitely temporary, there's a 12-point lead at the top.
It's all looking good for City currently; they travel to Norwich at the weekend in another crucial Premier League tie. Dean Smith's side drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace this evening.
Written by: @TomCayless_
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