MAN CITY 2, BRENTFORD 0
Raheem Sterling created an unusual piece of Premier League history on a night when Manchester City moved 12 points clear at the top of the table.
The England striker won his 23rd penalty which is more than any other player in the Premier League era.
City were far from their best and a case of all gifts gratefully received as both goals stemmed from Brentford defensive errors rather than their individual or collective brilliance.
Riyad Mahrez scored the spot kick late in the opening half to break the deadlock and then a blunder by goalkeeper David Raya led to the second goal from Kevin De Bruyne.
While City remain unstoppable, Brentford’s slide down the table continued as this was a sixth successive defeat in all competitions as their slide down the table continued.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola said: “They are so difficult to attack. Aggressive, high pressing, we build up they drop and defend so deep. Be patient, make no mistakes, and in the end we got the result.
“I am very satisfied with the performance. We conceded one shot, a few corners and were patient. Difficult when they defend deep with 10 players in their 18-yard box.”
On the title race, Guardiola continued: “Liverpool have two games to play then we see the gap – 14 games to play, many points to play for and more tough games like today.
“Everyone is tough competition, but it is impressive at this stage to have 60 points – we have done incredibly well so far.”
Sterling admitted it had been a tough night, saying: “They are a difficult side to break down but we stuck to it and got two goals. We tried to keep creating chances, and hopefully take one.
“They defended well and had a tight unit. We just had to keep probing and try to find the gaps.”
On their 12-point lead, Sterling added: “It’s another game, we move on step by step, that’s all we can do – keep trying to win and not looking at anyone else.”
Brentford boss Thomas Frank took positives from the defeat, explaining: “We went to the Etihad, and from my perspective they are the best team in the world and kept them to a minimum of chances.
“We were one of the few teams to keep them relatively quiet which is a positive.
“The goals were our two big mistakes which were avoidable, and it would have been a great point without them or if we had taken one of our chances.
“If we continue to give performances like that, I am convinced things will come right.”
City made five changes to the side that beat Fulham in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling replaced Kyle Walker, Nathan Ake, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and Jack Grealish as John Stones played right back.
The big news for Brentford was that striker Ivan Toney missed out with a calf injury, one of three changes to the side beaten by Everton on Saturday.
Ethan Pinnock, Frank Onyeka and Saman Ghoddos came in for Mads Bech Sorensen, Vitaly Janelt and Toney.
City had an early chance when Phil Foden headed wide from 14 yards following a cross by De Bruyne.
While City enjoyed considerable possession, they were laboured in the final third and lacked their usual incisiveness in front of goal as underlined when Sterling fired over from six yards which a spectacular scissor kick and Dias fired agonisingly wide from a free kick.
The deadlock was broken five minutes before the break when City won a penalty following a clumsy challenge by Mads Roerslev on Sterling who was cutting back from the by-line.
Mahrez confidently scored from the spot, his 16th goal of the season and in his fifth successive league game.
He became only the second City player to achieve the feat in the Premier League, the other being Sergio Aguero who did it seven times.
Left back Joao Cancelo proved to be City’s most potent attacking threat early in the second half.
A 25-yard drive dipped just over the bar and then he weaved his way into the penalty area before forcing a save from David Raya.
Brentford carved out a rare opening, but Frank Onyeka shot weakly at Ederson when he ought to have done better.
City made their first change mid-half when Mahrez made way for Jack Grealish.
De Bruyne doubled City’s lead with 21 minutes left after a blunder by Raya who, playing a pass out from the back, saw it intercepted by Sterling.
Raya looked to saved spared his blushes with a brilliant block to deny Sterling a second goal only for the rebound to fall invitingly to De Bruyne who fired home a low shot from just inside the box, his eighth goal of the season.
City made a second change as Foden made way for Gundogan.
Raya made amends for his error with a wonder save to turn Rodri’s 25-yard drive round the post for a corner.
Brentford battled bravely but they continue to be punished for defensive frailties as they are starting to look anxiously over their shoulders.