Manchester City continue to win while title rivals falter

Max Parsons
It wasn't pretty, but Manchester City got the job done
It wasn't pretty, but Manchester City got the job done / Clive Rose/GettyImages

While Manchester City were earning a tenth consecutive Premier League win at Brentford on Wednesday night, Chelsea were falling to a disappointing draw against Brighton just four miles away.

Two title hopefuls were playing in close proximity in west London but, at the end of the night, the distance between the Cityzens and the chasing pack was anything but close.

With Thomas Tuchel's side's aforementioned 1-1 draw and Liverpool's shock 1-0 defeat to Leicester on Tuesday evening, Pep Guardiola's men took advantage to move eight points clear at the summit of the Premier League.

And they did it like champions.

They were dull, they were uninspiring and, quite frankly, they were a chore to watch for the most part. But, they won.

Following on from a 7-0 mauling of Leeds, a 4-0 drubbing of Newcastle and a 6-3 thrashing of Leicester in their previous three, City played out a much more subdued - to put it lightly - 1-0 victory at the Brentford Community Stadium.

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola was anything but pleased by his side's performance / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

While the goals had previously been flowing for Guardiola's side, this win was built on pure defensive nous and solidity, spearheaded by the inexhaustible Fernandinho; the game-reading intelligence of full-backs Joao Cancelo and Nathan Ake to stifle the Bees' diagonal and cross-field phases of play; and the relentless pressing of the front five.

Just as true champions do, however, City produced one moment of magic to nick the three points. In a hotly-contested and close-fought first half, it was a breakaway after a superb Ederson save and a Cancelo goal-line clearance from the resulting corner that produced the game's solitary goal.

The counter eventually found its way to Kevin De Bruyne, whose silky, perfectly weighted, first-time, curling cross' quality was matched by the elusive movement of Phil Foden in the penalty area. The 21-year-old's subsequent neat finish was simply a formality.

The visitors did have two goals disallowed in the second period but, in truth, there was little else of note in a creative sense. That's not to say they didn't deserve to walk away with smiles on their faces - although Guardiola himself was left anything but happy by the drab display of his glittering playing staff.

While Liverpool and Chelsea dropped points again, City ground out a victory in a way that only title-winners do.

The reigning champions now have an eight-point cushion between themselves and Chelsea in second place. Liverpool do have a game in hand and can close the gap to six points but, as the league-leaders only threats gear up to face each other in a top of the table clash this weekend, current fixtures only play into City's hands.

It's been a hellish festive period for the vast majority of Premier League clubs but, as we come out of it, City have done nothing but reaffirm their title credentials and have seemingly raced away - not all the way, but slightly - from the chasing pack.