EPL

Brentford’s fine season ends with victory over champions Manchester City

By Sports Desk May 28, 2023

Ethan Pinnock consigned Treble-chasing Manchester City to a final-day defeat as Brentford completed a Premier League double over the champions.

Defender Pinnock celebrated signing a new four-year contract earlier in the day by scoring an 85th-minute winner to snatch a 1-0 victory for the Bees.

With the title long since sewn up, Pep Guardiola rested some of his big hitters ahead of next weekend’s FA Cup final, and a potentially historic Champions League showpiece seven days later.

With Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish missing completely and Erling Haaland left on the bench, it was a scratch City side and those established stars who did play, like Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez, had little impact.

Brentford still had something to play for, by contrast, as they were in with a slim chance of qualifying for the Europa Conference League before wins for Tottenham and Aston Villa ultimately scuppered their hopes.

Their players applauded the champions onto the pitch, but that was as far as the respect stretched.

The Bees may still be adjusting to life without suspended striker Ivan Toney but they remain a potent threat, with Yoane Wissa beating Emerson with a curler against the far post before an offside flag was raised.

Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, who looks destined to leave the club this summer, had to make an early diving save to deny Cole Palmer before Kalvin Phillips, getting another run-out in a midfield three alongside Palmer and Rico Lewis, sent a low shot wide.

Emerson saved well from Vitaly Janelt’s snap-shot at a corner as Brentford pressed, and the German midfielder lifted another effort over the crossbar.

After the break Brentford, who won at the Etihad in November, felt they should have had a penalty after Lewis slid in on Ben Mee.

But referee John Brooks waved away the appeals – with VAR agreeing – and then booked Bees head coach Thomas Frank for his protests.

By now City well and truly had their eye on the bigger battles to come, but the Bees kept driving forward and Frank Onyeka’s drive flew over before Bryan Mbeumo just failed to get a touch on to Janelt’s chip into the area.

The winner came from a cross by substitute Kevin Schade which was headed back across goal by Mbeumo and emphatically finished by Pinnock.

City briefly woke up and Raya somehow denied Palmer an equaliser from close range.

Defeat meant City did not break the 90-point mark for a record fourth time in the Premier League, which will irritate Guardiola,  but if they win their next two matches – at Wembley and in Istanbul – even the perfectionist will have forgotten that.

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    Former Manchester City goalkeeper David James hails Pep Guardiola for "doing remarkable things" but believes he is still not at Alex Ferguson’s level.

    City became the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive titles with their 3-1 win over West Ham on Sunday, pipping Arsenal to the crown by two points.

    Manchester United had previously won three consecutive Premier League seasons, achieving the feat twice under Ferguson (1998-2001 and 2006-2009).

    Guardiola’s side can create more history on Saturday as they aim to clinch unprecedented back-to-back league and FA Cup doubles against the Red Devils.

    Asked if this achievement put Guardiola’s name alongside Ferguson’s as the best Premier League manager, James, who spent two years with City, disagreed.

    "No, Fergie's still the best. Look at statistics and longevity," James told Stats Perform. "And even more so, since Fergie left, what's happened to Manchester United.

    "You can't even blame or use the excuse he had a good team and did well with it, Fergie rode the waves, he was up and down and even these downs weren't particularly bad.

    "I think third or fourth was probably the worst they ever did; Fergie was the best and Pep will have to hang around for another decade, I think, before he can actually challenge that position.

    "But what we're seeing at the moment, you've got a different style of football, a different type of game in so many different ways. The way the league is constructed at the moment with other competitions around it, Pep is having to do different things to what Fergie may have had to do.

    "I know Fergie was a great manager, but not necessarily the greatest coach. Pep is a great manager and a great coach. He's also got an extra string to his bow in that sense.

    "To be the winner of that league four years in a row, you need to be a superb manager. And I think Pep, in this short time frame, is doing some remarkable things, but he's going to have to hang around for a lot longer to take Ferguson's crown."

    Following their victory over West Ham, Guardiola stated that he was "closer to leaving than staying", raising speculation that next season could be his last.

    "I think the big question for Pep, and it is logical that he will now become the focus given that Jurgen Klopp announced his departure a few months ago, and all of a sudden it was nothing, but Jurgen and he will be the next focus," James added.

    "I think the thing for Pep is, what does he want to do as a person? And it's not that he's completed the treble and that's enough because I think that he would want to do a treble treble, you want to do a quadruple.

    "I can see that competitive side in him, he doesn't seem to change on the sidelines. Even yesterday, when they conceded the goal, and it was a fantastic goal from Kudus, he wasn't happy.

    "I think you can still see that he's still animated, still engaged with the game. There's no question that he's feeling tired in that sense.

    "I would like him to stay. I would like him to stay because I think when you've got someone so good, you need someone to beat them legitimately rather than them just step away and allow everyone else to play.

    "I think he should stay. And I'm sure City will do everything they can to keep him in charge for the foreseeable future."

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    "Every team is beatable. At the moment, [Leverkusen] seem unbeatable, but maybe we are the ones who can change that," he said in the pre-match press conference.

    "We have to believe in our philosophy, play attacking football and try to beat them. You don't win a trophy if you don't beat the best.

    "We have had a great campaign, and we fully deserve to be here. Both sides deserve to be playing this final. Let's see who will manage to lift the trophy.

    Atalanta narrowly missed out in the Coppa Italia final to Juventus earlier this month, and Gian Piero Gasperini is now preparing to manage his first-ever European final.

    The Italian praised Leverkusen but stressed the belief he has in his own team after an impressive campaign.

    He said: "We are aware that we are facing a great team. We know that they are undefeated, and we know that they have had an amazing season.

    "Our journey, however, was also very good as we beat very strong teams to reach the final, and we also have belief.

    "Leverkusen are a complete team; extremely organised. They are versatile, they can defend and recover the ball well.

    "The results they have achieved this season are not an accident. Certainly, small details can make the difference in a final. We have to respect them and try to adapt quickly to the opponents we are facing."

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    Xabi Alonso says Bayer Leverkusen are driven by self-confidence in their ability to win games ahead of the Europa League final.

    Leverkusen are chasing the second trophy in a potential treble against Atalanta in Dublin on Wednesday, with the DFB-Pokal final against Kaiserslautern to follow on Saturday.

    The Bundesliga champions became the first German team to go unbeaten on their way to the title and are currently on a 51-match run without defeat in all competitions.

    Alonso is taking charge of his first European final as a manager, but he believes his team will draw on the experience they have already gained this season.

    "Our self-confidence keeps driving us on. We know that we can produce goals until the final minute," he said in his pre-match press conference. "That's a huge development that the team has made this season.

    "From the start of the campaign, we believed in our brand of football and that's right at the heart of this successful run.

    "We'll prepare like we did for all the games before. We haven't lost in 51 games, so my boys know how to adapt to different situations. That also applies to the final.

    "What matters above all tomorrow is mentality. We have a game plan, but the players still have that wonderful atmosphere from the title celebrations on Saturday, and we want to tap into that."

    Alonso is the youngest coach to manage a men’s European final since Roberto Di Matteo oversaw Chelsea’s Champions League victory in 2012.

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    Reflecting on his time at Leverkusen, Alonso said: "I was so young in this coach career, so when I was offered the Leverkusen job, so it was 'let's go, let's see what happens'.

    "In one year and a half, so much has happened; it has been a great experience, and it has only been a year and a half, but we have made so many right decisions.

    "I think we have great chemistry.  The mentality we have shown throughout the year has been fantastic. I am really enjoying it."

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