Haaland goal lifts Man City within a point of Liverpool

February 22, 2024

MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland erased any questions about his scoring touch on Tuesday, netting Manchester City’s only goal in a 1-0 victory over Brentford that lifted them into second place in the Premier League table, just one point behind leaders Liverpool.

Manchester City's Norwegian striker Erling Haaland shoots and scores his team first goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Brentford at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 20, 2024. — AFP

Pep Guardiola’s team, unbeaten in their last 10 league matches and finally even in games played with title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal, have 56 points, one ahead of Arsenal in a title race that looks destined to go down to the wire. Brentford are five points above the relegation zone in 14th.

Haaland, who three days earlier pushed a camera in frustration after failing to score with nine shots in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, was back in form, increasing his league tally to 17 goals.

The Norwegian broke the deadlock in the 71st minute when he sprinted onto a beautiful through ball from Julian Alvarez then stroked it past a slipping Kristoffer Ajer before beating keeper Mark Flekken. Haaland has now scored against every Premier League club he has faced. He has yet to play Luton Town.

Guardiola issued a warning to Haaland’s critics and said the Norwegian had come through a difficult period in his personal life. “Top strikers score a lot of goals, don’t criticise, he will shut your mouth. Sooner or later he is there,” Guardiola told reporters.

“He was out for two months (with a foot injury), he lost his grandmother, it is not easy for a human being. “We spoke about the moment and I realised this later, but he didn’t say anything about the passing away of his grandmother. In this type of games like Brentford, you need Erling,” added Guardiola, who said he left playmaker Kevin De Bruyne on the bench because of “niggles in his hamstring”.

Haaland, who had scored just two goals in his previous seven games, had another effort ruled out late in the game because Kyle Walker was offside in the buildup. Chelsea thoroughly frustrated City on Saturday, and it was more of the same on Tuesday -- besides Haaland’s goal -- with City taking 25 shots, 11 on target to Brentford’s two, with Flekken producing an excellent performance.

Oscar Bobb, who made his first Premier League start, had one of City’s best chances, deftly cutting around Christian Norgaard before unleashing a shot that defender Ben Mee sprinted back to just clear off the line.

Brentford missed a huge early opportunity when Frank Onyeka ran onto a pass from Yoane Wissa but shot straight at City’s keeper Ederson. “It wasn’t easy. We scored a goal on the counter-attack,” City defender Manuel Akanji said. “The defender slipped early and the efficiency was there (from Haaland). He scored a great goal.

“We know how hard it is to play against Brentford, with their back five. That’s why we tried to attack and we didn’t run into too many counter-attacks. I can’t remember too many big chances they had.

“After the weekend we had to show a reaction and I feel we did that. Now we have to improve game by game.” Brentford manager Thomas Frank lamented the misstep that led to Haaland’s goal.

“It was an unlucky situation, if Kristoffer doesn’t slip, I’m convinced it was never going to be a goal,” said Frank. “Haaland is quick, but Kristoffer is just as quick and it would never have been a goal. City are good enough with their quality, they don’t need the margins going their way. I think we needed it more than them.”