Foden's hat trick leads Man City recovery in win over Brentford in EPL
Phil Foden grabbed the spotlight from fit-again Manchester City superstars Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne by scoring a hat trick in a come-from-behind 3-1 win at Brentford that moved the champions two points behind Liverpool in a congested English Premier League summit on Monday.
City's opponents might be able to stop Haaland from scoring or close down the space for assist king De Bruyne, but there will always be a top-class player somewhere in the team to inflict the damage.
Foden was that player against Brentford as he led City's recovery after Neal Maupay's 21st-minute goal against the run of play for the hosts.
The England midfielder equalized in first-half stoppage time by pouncing on a poor defensive clearance, headed home the go-ahead goal in the 53rd, and completed his second career hat trick in the 70th with a piercing run and composed finish.
"It's probably the best form I've had in a City shirt for a long time, consistently. Long may that continue," Foden said. His goal tally improved to 14 in all competitions.
Foden has won it all with his boyhood club after coming through the academy but hasn't always been a regular. He is now and is particularly enjoying playing in a central attacking-midfield role — where he is closer to the striker and more of a goal threat — rather than out on the wing.
"It'd help if I played in one position and learnt that position every game," Foden said of his preference for a central role. "I'm a person that adapts and plays in a lot of positions when needed. I know in this Man City side I'm going to do that — play in a lot of positions — and I need to be ready.
"I'm just enjoying playing in the middle. That's where I see myself playing my best football so hopefully I can keep getting more game time there."
City is putting together a familiar winning streak in the second half of the season — that's five in a row in the league since Dec. 27 and nine straight in all competitions — and has all of its key players back healthy, with top scorer Haaland making his first start after a nearly two-month injury absence.
It makes City the favorite for the title once again, with Pep Guardiola's team having a game in hand over Liverpool and third-placed Arsenal. Only two points separates the top three.
Arsenal is tied for points with City in third, but has an inferior goal difference.
Haaland came off in the 86th minute. He didn't add to his 14 goals for the campaign — tied for the most with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah — but did lay on the third for Foden, who was thrown a City scarf from the crowd as he celebrated in front of the away fans. Foden wrapped it round his neck before chucking it back into the supporters.
"He is playing his best season since we have been together," Guardiola said.
City had been stunned by Maupay's goal that came from an unlikely source. Goalkeeper Mark Flekken's goal kick went straight down the middle of the field, between two defenders disturbed by the presence of Ivan Toney, and into the path of Maupay.
The French striker slotted it home and City was losing to the team that did the home-and-away double over the champions last season.
Foden made sure that won't happen this time round, grabbing the equalizer after Ethan Pinnock made a poor clearing header that looped up straight to the midfielder. Foden controlled the ball and produced a calm finish.
De Bruyne, making a second straight start after his own long injury layoff, was dangerous throughout but was struggling to find his man in the area before he delivered a pinpoint cross for Foden to head home his second. His third would soon follow in a performance that must have excited England coach Gareth Southgate ahead of the European Championship this summer.