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Erling Haaland scores winner for Man City against Brentford to close gap at top to just one point

Erling Haaland is congratulated by his Manchester City team-mates
Erling Haaland was the difference between the two sides - Action Images/Lee Smith

One slip, that was all it took. For 70 minutes, Brentford had kept Erling Haaland quiet. For 70 minutes, Manchester City’s No 9 had barely had a kick. For 70 minutes, the champions were staring at the prospect of more dropped points in this tightly-contested Premier League title race. And then, almost from nowhere, that great devourer of goals, that merciless punisher of mistakes screeched into view just as poor Kristoffer Ajer took a fateful stumble and suddenly all of Brentford’s hard work was undone by Haaland’s 22nd goal of the campaign.

It was notable not just for being the goal that won the game and moved City above Arsenal to within a point of leaders Liverpool. Haaland has now scored against all 21 Premier League teams he has faced since moving to England from Borussia Dortmund 20 months ago. It is some statistic and, following the recent death of his grandmother and some criticism for not scoring as frequently as usual, quite the riposte to any doubters.

This will have been an agonising result for the Brentford manager, Thomas Frank, let alone Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta. Brentford threw everything they had at City, offensively and defensively, and had barely put a foot wrong until Ajer’s own two feet gave way beneath him at just the wrong time, allowing Haaland to race away and inflict the killer blow.

And that is all it can take at this rarefied level: a simple slip the difference between winning and losing. The goal originated with Ruben Dias making an important tackle in his own penalty area before the ball was recycled quickly to Rodri and then on to Julian Alvarez in the centre circle.

Alvarez fed a pass through to Haaland, whose first touch was heavy. Had Ajer not slipped at pretty much the same moment, the Brentford defender would almost certainly have picked up possession or at least been able to block off Haaland.

Kristoffer Ajer slips at the worst possible moment
Kristoffer Ajer (centre) slipped at the worst possible moment - PA/Martin Rickett

But that slip gave Haaland just the space to race through and four touches later the ball was nestling in the back of Mark Flekken’s net, the Norwegian finishing hard and low into the bottom corner. Pep Guardiola turned and booted a drinks cooler in celebration, his relief palpable. City had been in a fight and their manager knew it.

You don’t need to tell Liverpool fans how costly slips can be in title races and Guardiola – who was frantically willing the crowd to turn up the volume at one stage in the second half – was delighted to come away with three hard earned points after seeing his side drop two in the 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea three days earlier.

A 4-4 draw against Chelsea last November had paved the way for a run of disappointing results but City will now head into fixtures against Bournemouth, another counter-attacking threat, on Saturday, Manchester United and then Liverpool with a renewed sense of confidence.

They have never found the going easy against Brentford and this was another of those occasions when they just needed to get over the line.

It took a rousing second-half performance from City to see off Brentford in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago with the game level at the break and Guardiola – missing the rested Kevin De Bruyne – found himself asking for much the same at half-time here.

In truth, Brentford had been indebted to an outstanding display from their goalkeeper Mark Flekken on that occasion to keep City at bay.

He was not quite as busy this time around but no less important. Six of City’s 17 shots in that opening 45 minutes found the target and Flekken had to show quick reflexes to repel a firm header at his feet by Ruben Dias from Rodri’s cross.

Mark Flekken saves from Ruben Dias
Mark Flekken put in fine performances home and away against City - Getty Images/Simon Stacpoole

City’s best chance of that first half came at the point they were exerting maximum pressure on Brentford’s defence. Oscar Bobb ghosted inside Mads Roerslev with the most delicious of faints and must have thought he was about to claim his second Premier League on his first start in the competition only for Ben Mee to clear brilliantly off the goalline. Bernardo should also have done better with a close-range header and Frank was right when he said you know you have done a “good job” against City when you get to 70 minutes having limited them to two notable chances on goal.

Brentford have managed to land more punches on the champions than most teams in recent seasons and their threat on the break – and from set pieces – remains undiminished. Guardiola said “every corner and free-kick is a nightmare” and it was obvious what he meant.

Frank’s side are the last team to win at the Etihad in the Premier League, in November 2022. On that particular day, they punished City mercilessly on the counter and you could have imagined Guardiola having a restless night coming into this game over precisely the sort of chance Brentford carved in the 16th minute.

After Rodri missed a header, Yoane Wissa released Frank Onyeka in behind John Stones and Kyle Walker. The Brentford midfielder was not going to be caught but there was little conviction about his shot, a tame effort that dribbled straight towards a grateful Ederson. It was, to say the least, a let off for the men in sky blue.

Brentford really did not look like a team with just two wins from their previous 10 league outings. They were organised, aggressive and you could sense City’s unease whenever their opponents hit with pace and power on the break. That nervousness was evident among the home crowd and you know City are in a game when Guardiola is waving manically from the touchline, imploring fans to make more noise. That was just 10 minutes into the second half, with Brentford on the front foot and City having to soak up pressure.

City fans booed the introduction of Neal Maupay after his provocation of Kyle Walker two weeks ago and the England defender exacted a modicum of revenge when he was booked for piling through the Brentford substitute with a thundering challenge.

By the end, though, it was all about Haaland.


Man City 1 Brentford 0: As it happened


09:43 PM GMT

The goal

Haaland bombs through with Ajer slipping
Ajer slips and lets Haaland, of all people, through - Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Haaland scores
Haaland slots his shot past Flekken - Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images
Haaland is embraced
Haaland celebrates scoring against every Premier League side he has faced since August 2022 - Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

09:33 PM GMT

City go second

  1. Liverpool P25 – 57 points

  2. City P25 – 56 points

  3. Arsenal P25 – 55 points

At the other end Brentford stay in 14th with 25 points ahead of Palace on goal difference and Forest by a point.


09:28 PM GMT

Full time: Man City 1 Brentford 0

So much endeavour from Brentford but ultimately no reward. Man City, by contrast, huffed and puffed and eventually blew the house down. It looked like Ajer panicked with Haaland bearing down on him like a cartoon bull, vapour blown from both nostrils. Well, who wouldn’t? Much to admire about Brentford’s performance, much to admire from City’s ability to prevail tonight when they weren’t allowed to be as fluent as they are at their irrepressible best.


09:26 PM GMT

Full time: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Brentford send Flekken up for a corner after Haaland headed a throw-in behind but all he could do was foul Rodri and earn himself a booking, swiping the midfielder as he tried to hack at a half-volley.


09:24 PM GMT

90+5 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Doku delays a pass that could have put either Foden or Haaland through. Pep isn’t pleased. Neither are the people who triple-captained Haaland for games against the 11th and 14th-placed sides.


09:22 PM GMT

90+4 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Foden looks like he’s only just getting into his stride and could play another 90, beating Damsgaard before picking out Haaland who, for once, couldn’t connect sweetly.


09:21 PM GMT

90+2 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Foden with a glorious chance, thwarted by Flekken who dived in when Foden tried to round him and palm it wide as he shot. Flekken could have easily brought him down there but timed it perfectly.


09:20 PM GMT

90 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Brentford defend the corner stoutly. Up goes the board and we’ll have six minutes of stoppage time.


09:19 PM GMT

89 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Lovely run from Foden, darting towards the box before thumping a shot that Flekken gets down to turn behind. A blistering shot, very Hot Shot Hamish.

Kovacic ⇢ Alvarez

Ghoddos ⇢ Roerslev

Damsgaard ⇢ Onyeka


09:17 PM GMT

87 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Brentford haven’t played badly. The plan was working until an error holed it beneath the waterline.


09:15 PM GMT

85 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Kovacic has been bouncing on the spot, waiting to come on for a while. Jensen tries to push Rodri backwards but he never looks hurried. Flekken easily stops Haaland’s angled shot.


09:12 PM GMT

83 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Walker is booked for leaving one on Maupay. No bad blood there ...


09:09 PM GMT

NO GOAL!

Yes, Walker with the assist was a few inches offside. He jumped the gun but no’ but just as he headed it back across for Haaland to convert. Another fantastic diagonal from Rodri to pick out Walker’s run round the back.


09:08 PM GMT

GOAL?!?

VAR check for Haaland’s header? Is Walker offside?


09:07 PM GMT

77 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

And another: Lewis-Potter ⇢ Reguilon.


09:06 PM GMT

76 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

Brentford change:

Jensen ⇢ Janelt.


09:03 PM GMT

73 min: Man City 1 Brentford 0

The goal came from a Brentford shot that was blocked. Now Haaland has scored against every Premier League side he has ever played against.

Toney tests Ederson with a shot on the fly but doesn’t have the beating of him tonight. The ball sails over from 25 yards.


08:59 PM GMT

GOAL!!!

City 1 Brentford 0 (Haaland)  Pounces on Ajer’s slip on a barnstorming City counter-attack, played through by Alvarez, Haaland draws the keeper and slots his shot into an empty net. Never looked like missing with his left foot.

Erling Haaland scores
Erling Haaland gives Man City the lead - Martin Rickett/PA Wire

08:58 PM GMT

69 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Yellow card for Toney for a wayward arm into Ruben Dias’s coupon as they leapt for a header.

Maupay ⇢ Wissa. Maupay greeted by boos, naturally.


08:57 PM GMT

67 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Mee takes some time to be assessed. But when they restart Doku’s cross strikes Norgaard and goes comfortably back to Flekken.


08:56 PM GMT

65 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Howls of frustration from the home fans when Brentford are given a free-kick out by the right touchline. Akanji delays a pass out to Doku which incites the City crowd but when he feeds Bernardo to cross, Haaland is penalised for catching Mee round the back of his head with his arm as the defender stuck tight.


08:52 PM GMT

62 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Bernardo takes the free-kick and hooks it 25 yards straight into touch, Alvarez having moved as per Pep’s instruction.

First change: Doku ⇢ Bobb.


08:50 PM GMT

61 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Guardiola plays ball boy to run down the touchline and hurl a replacement to a City player so they can take a throw-in quickly. Wissa is booked for raising his leg when challenging.


08:48 PM GMT

60 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

City free-kick that Alvarez and Bernardo stand over. The former takes it and Akanji says he has been fouled by Roerslev as Brentford clear. The ref isn’t persuaded.


08:46 PM GMT

58 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Cries of ‘C’mon City’ orchestrated by Guardiola as he tries to use his 12th man. Will he have to turn to De Bruyne?


08:45 PM GMT

58 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Foden belts a cleraance out of his box to Flekken after Reguilon’s free-kick ricocheted around the box from Norgaard’s flick-on.


08:44 PM GMT

56 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Man City have put Brentford under the iron for prolonged spells but Toney and Wissa have always provided an outlet and Pep isn’t happy that his defenders are not winning the ball on first contact with them.


08:42 PM GMT

54 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Wissa holds the ball up solidly again and draws the foul that earns him a free-kick.


08:41 PM GMT

52 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Now Rodri has a shot from outside the box and fizzes it wide.


08:40 PM GMT

51 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Alvarez with a corner from the left. Brentford repel it and break like lightning with Onyeka bounding from his own box after robbing Bernardo, playing a one-two with Reguilon but then gets wrapped up in Walker’s web and can’t get his shot on target after trying in vain to shake him off with twists and turns.


08:38 PM GMT

49 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Some complaint on social media for the amount of time Flekken uses after catching the ball and re-starting play. It’s not great but I’ve seen worse this season.


08:36 PM GMT

47 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Bobb plays a lovely ball into Foden who diverts it back on goal but without troubling Flekken.


08:36 PM GMT

46 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Brentford kick off. No changes. Rodri tries to find Alvarez and Norgaard cuts it out.


08:21 PM GMT

Half-time: Man City 0 Brentford 0

City have been as slick as ever in their build-up play but have lacked precision with their final ball and with a series of long shots. Brentford have looked dangerous on the break and can be pleased that their defence has stood firm in numbers and have sprung Onyeka, Toney and Wissa a good few times.


08:19 PM GMT

45+2 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Two minutes of stoppage time end with Norgaard thwarting a City attack with an interception and when he tries to Send Wissa through Stones sends him flying and is booked. As is Mee moments later.


08:17 PM GMT

45 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

City work one of their intricate passing moves with Rodri at the hub of everything, defenders flyingf orward in support and Ruben Dias deciding to chance his arm outside the box. Fleken saves well.


08:15 PM GMT

43 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Reguilon takes the free-kick deep from the left but Roerslev can’t keep hold of it under pressure and works it back to Flekken who knocks it back upfield and conjurs a header for Onyeka that Ederson saves well.


08:14 PM GMT

41 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Bobb is some player, seems to glide. Reminiscent of a young Dele Alli in that respect. Poor touch from Foden leads to a City free-kick 23 yards out after Wissa dives and the ref doesn’t spot it.


08:11 PM GMT

39 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Brilliant stop from Mee just in front of the line to deprive Bobb who had bamboozled the defence and Flekken with a dip and a feisty shot that seemed bound for goal. Mee came from nowhere at the vital moment.

Bobb shoots
Bobb shoots - REUTERS/Molly Darlington

08:09 PM GMT

37 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Now Akanji sweeps in from the left to shoot with his right and the ball whistles past the top corner. Then seconds later from the corner Flekken saves from Dias’s header.


08:07 PM GMT

35 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Big chance for City! Crossfield over to Walker bombing down the right who heads it back across the face of goal to Bernardo who surely cann’t miss from six yards ... but does, getting his neck all wrong and sticking it over. City’s kind of route one that: Ederson out to Rodri who played a gorgeous, floated pass from left to right toWalker who had blindsided Mee.


08:04 PM GMT

33 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Onyeka earns his side a free-kick with some dogged running and rugged shielding through halfway. Flekken takes the free-kick, chipping it from the centre-circle to the edge of the area but City comfortably clear.


08:03 PM GMT

31 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Foden passes out to Walker on the overlap and he picks out Bobb to cross. The ball was behind Haaland who tried to remedy the lack of accuracy with an improvised flying scissor kick but even at his Simone Biles-best he couldn’t get it back on target.


08:00 PM GMT

29 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Another Alvarez shot from distnace, this one flying past the post. Pep is unhappy, doing his Rumpelstiltskin act on the touchline.


07:59 PM GMT

27 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Brentford are smothering City’s attacks, flooding nine men behind the ball, leaving just Toney and Wissa up. Ederson tried to start an attack with one of his pinpoint diagonals to Alvarez but Brentford squueze out his space, ultimately at the price of a corner.

Bernardo arcs the corner into the box and it pin-balls out to Alvarez who gets under his shot and balloons it into the crowd.

Pep Guardiola drops to his haunches
Pensive Pep channels Rodin - Martin Rickett/PA Wire

07:56 PM GMT

25 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Toney and Wissa are causing problems not only with their pace but their ability to hold the ball up and ride the physicality of Ruben Dias so far.


07:55 PM GMT

23 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Brentford’s plan seems to be working pretty well. Wissa is sent through beyond the City high line again but Ederson beats him to the punch. He was offside anyway ... much to City’s ire as they wanted an earlier flag.

Onyeka shoots
Onyeka steals through - Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith

07:52 PM GMT

21 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Reguilon backheels it to Toney who wraps his instep around it and sends it whistling about three inches wide of the left-angle of crossbar and post.


07:50 PM GMT

20 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Onyeka is clipped on the shin as he drives through the middle again. Dias the guilty party. Brentford free-kick, 25 yards out. Toney lines it up.


07:49 PM GMT

17 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Onyeka pounces on a wayward pass and burst through City’s high line to bear down on the box but his shot lacks all conviction, poise and precision. Ederson watches it as it hoops away.

Walker and Reguilon
Walker gets the better of Reguilon - PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

07:46 PM GMT

13 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Ederson races out of his area to thump the ball clear after Brentford tried to play Toney in behind. Very alert from the City keeper and Bobb combines with Alvarez to provoke some concern in the Brentford box by probing from the left with some dazzling passing. But nothing comes of it.


07:44 PM GMT

11 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Haaland heads over from a Bernardo cross and then Brentford have another go, this time with Roerslev going up the right and picking out Wissa who is tackled by Stones before he can pull the trigger.


07:43 PM GMT

9 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Brentford have been very much encamped so far but now they launch a raid with Ajer bombing up the right and crossing, causing some concern in the box as Wissa and Janelt fight for it. City scramble it away and Onyeka has to hare back to clear up and stop City’s break after an error by Jorgensen. Flekken gathers safely.


07:40 PM GMT

7 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

City corner after good work from Bernardo feeds Alvarez who earns a corner by his persistence and the diligence of Brentford’s low block. From the corner, Flekken flaps and the ball slides off his fist as he punches straight to Foden who has a dig, putting his laces through it and Mee blocks on the six-yard line.


07:38 PM GMT

5 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Quiet at the Etihad so far tonight. Reguilon is having an interesting battle with Walker who is pushing high as usual. Here comes Akanki down the left, plays a one-two with Bobb, make that a two-two as the Norwegian is given the ball again. He takes it to the byline but Roerslev stands his ground and forces Bobb to recycle.


07:35 PM GMT

3 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Haaland hounds Reguilon and wins the ball back as the left wing-back tried to dribble out from the back. He strips the ball away and lets fly but hardly tests Flekken who gathers.


07:34 PM GMT

1 min: Man City 0 Brentford 0

Thomas Frank and Pep Guardiola shake hands then bump shoulders in a kind of macho embrace. Both sides engage in a last-minute huddle and we’re away, City kicking off attacking to the left, giving Ederson an early touch. He goes long and the ball skips through to Flekken via a Brentford flick and he has to go wide to stop it going behind.


07:29 PM GMT

Both sets of fans

Are trying to lay claim to Hey Jude.


07:27 PM GMT

The teams are in the tunnel

Both sides in their home kits. Kyle Walker and Christian Norgaard lead them out.


07:21 PM GMT

Pep's a Brentford fan


07:11 PM GMT

Oscar Bobb makes his first PL start

Oscar Bobb
Norway's Oscar Bobb gets the nod in midfield - Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

06:45 PM GMT

Thomas Frank speaks to Sky

We did a lot of things right [during the home defeat a fortnight ago], both under pressure and with the ball. We conceded three goals but overall we defended well. We need to learn from those three goals and avoid similar situations. We know they can explode and suddenly put five in behind you but we need to be good.

I changed three players, little bit of freshness after a high intensity and physical game against Liverpool. The three top teams that are running away are better than the rest. We believe, if we didn’t we wouldn’t turn up.


06:42 PM GMT

And now for those of you watching in black and white

Man City  Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Akanji; Rodri; Bernardo Silva, Bobb, Alvarez, Foden; Haaland. 
Substitutes Ortega, Carson, Ake, Kovacic, Doku, De Bruyne, Gomez, Matheus Luiz, Lewis. 

Brentford  Flekken; Jorgensen, Ajer, Mee; Roerslev, Onyeka, Norgaard, Janelt, Reguilon; Toney, Wissa. 
Substitutes Strakosha, Maupay, Jensen, Ghoddos, Collins, Lewis-Potter, Damsgaard, Baptiste, Yarmolyuk.

Referee  Darren England (Barnsley)


06:33 PM GMT

Three changes for Brentford, too

Out go Collins, Maupay and Jensen; in come Jorgensen/Zanka, Onyeka and Wissa.


06:32 PM GMT

Three changes for City

Ake, De Bruyne and Doku are out of the XI; Stones, Bernardo and Bobb start.


06:21 PM GMT

Brentford have been re-living 2022 this afternoon


06:18 PM GMT

Team news

The teams will be announced at 6.30pm, one hour before kick-off but the ITK Fantasy Premier League wallahs are suggesting on social media that Kevin De Bruyne will be rested before Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth.


05:04 PM GMT

If it happens again, I'm leaving


04:52 PM GMT

Making a wager?

Having a bet on today’s match? First take a look at these free bets and betting offers.


04:49 PM GMT

Preview: A self-identified villain

Good evening and welcome to live coverage of Manchester City vs Brentford from Etihad Stadium, a home victory in which will elevate the champions to second place, a point ahead of Arsenal and a point behind Liverpool with their visit to Anfield to come on March 10.

It’s an oft-forgotten fact that on the last day of last season, when City had already guaranteed winning the title by at least five points, that Brentford became only the fourth side to complete a league double over a Guardiola City side in seven seasons (following Spurs in 2021-22, Man Utd in 2019-20 and Chelsea in 2016-17). And they also took the lead in the home fixture 15 days ago when Neal Maupay pounced and proceeded to needle Kyle Walker, figuratively twirling the ends of his moustache as if a villain from the golden era of silent movies. It has earned him some notoriety among the kind of writers who are blind to the subtle essence of gamesmanship and are tickled by the blatant but thoroughly bogus concept of ‘s---housery’, cackling on X about behaviour that in a saner age and occupation would earn the offender and their proselytisers a thick ear.

Anyhow, City are unbeaten at home since Ivan Toney’s 98th-minute winner in November 2022 and would hope to start the game in the manner they played in the second half during Saturday’s draw with Chelsea, building towards that irresistible tide that eventually produced an equaliser and would have, had Erling Haaland not been oddly off-kilter and ill-humoured, probably ensured a victory. Axel Disasi handled him well but unfortunately for Brentford Ethan Pinnock, who has battled him well in the past, is out until the end of March with an ankle injury and Nathan Collins never looks as assured positionally going man to man.

The visitors have lost seven of their 11 away games so far this season and are only five points clear of 18th after the injury ravages of the first half of their campaign. They have a tough three weeks ahead with visits to West Ham in what could be a make or break game for David Moyes, and Arsenal plus trips to the Gtech for  Chelsea and Man Utd. The bookies have written them off as do most judges but if they have one thing in their favour tonight it’s that they are never usually an easy side to play, porous as Liverpool made them look on Saturday.

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