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Haaland secures Man City victory

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, right, duels for the ball with Brentford’s Christian Norgaard during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Brentford at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. PHOTO: AP

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND (AP) — Erling Haaland added Brentford to his list of Premier League conquests when he came to Manchester City’s rescue with a 71st-minute goal to clinch a 1-0 win Tuesday.

It looked like City would be dropping points in a tight title race for the second time in four days — after a 1-1 draw with Chelsea — only for Haaland to finally get some space behind Brentford’s defence in a counterattack.

Julian Alvarez played the ball forward, Haaland collected it and raced past centre back Kristoffer Ajer, who lost his footing. One on one with Mark Flekken, Haaland took his shot early and placed a low finish to the Dutch goalkeeper’s right for his league-leading 17th goal of the campaign.

Of the 21 teams Haaland has faced since arriving in the Premier League last season, Brentford was the only one he’d failed to score against.

Not anymore.

“He’s the best in the world,” said Oscar Bobb, Haaland’s City and Norway teammate who made his first Premier League start on Tuesday.

The narrow and nervy win moved the defending champions into second place in the standings, one point above Arsenal and one behind Liverpool. All three title contenders have played 25 of 38 games.

Liverpool hosts Luton on Wednesday.

City extended its unbeaten run in all competitions since December 6 to 16 matches, winning 14 and drawing two of them. Pep Guardiola’s team is also into the last 16 in the FA Cup and is well-placed to get into the Champions League quarter finals after taking a 3-1 lead over FC Copenhagen following the first leg of the round of 16.

Could another treble of major trophies be on for the European champions?

“The players, for years, have done incredible things,” Guardiola said “and they’re still doing it.”

City found it tough to break down Brentford’s packed defence — just as Guardiola predicted before the game.

The hosts had 25 shots in total, with Bobb having one cleared off the line in the first half as frustration among the City fans drew.

The first time Brentford left its defence exposed, Haaland pounced.

“After the weekend, we had to show a reaction and I feel we did that,” City defender Manuel Akanji said. “Now we have to improve game by game.”

City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne was an unused substitute and didn’t even come out to warm up.

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