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Foden hat-trick guides Man City to 3-1 win at Brentford

AP PHOTO

Superstars Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland may have been back in the starting line-up, but it was homegrown hero Phil Foden who grabbed the spotlight in Manchester City's Premier League win over Brentford.

Trailing to an early strike from Brentford forward Neil Maupay, City hit back to win 3-1 - courtesy of a hat-trick from academy product Foden that moved the champions two points behind Liverpool at the top of the EPL with a game in hand.

The England midfielder equalised in first-half stoppage time by pouncing on a poor defensive clearance, headed home to put his side ahead soon after the break, and added his third in the 70th minute 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, who has now scored 14 goals in all competitions this season, said.

Foden has won it all with his boyhood club but hasn't always been a regular in the side.

He is now and is enjoying playing in a central attacking-midfield role rather than out on the wing.

"I'm a person that adapts and plays in a lot of positions when needed," he said.

"I know in this Man City side I'm going to do that and I need to be ready.

"(More centrally is) where I see myself playing my best football, so hopefully I can keep getting more game time there."

City are putting together a familiar winning streak in the second half of the season - that's five in a row in the league since December 27 - as their key players return.

Against Brentford, top scorer Haaland made his first start after a nearly two-month injury absence.

"He is playing his best season since we have been together," manager Pep Guardiola said of the mercurial Foden.

City had been stunned by Maupay's 21st-minute goal. Goalkeeper Mark Flekken's long clearance split a defence disturbed by the presence of forward Ivan Toney, and fell into the path of Maupay.

The French striker slotted it home and City were losing to a team that did the home-and-away double over the champions last season.

De Bruyne, making a second successive start after his own long injury lay-off, was dangerous throughout and delivered a pinpoint cross for Foden to head home his second.

Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez is facing at least eight weeks out with ligament damage in his right knee.

The Argentina defender was forced off in the 71st minute of United's 3-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Sunday - his fourth appearance after four months with a foot injury.