Erling Haaland came to Manchester City’s rescue as the off-colour champions eked out a nervy 1-0 win over Brentford in the Premier League on Tuesday.

The prolific Norwegian, who spurned a host of chances in a frustrating draw with Chelsea at the weekend, returned to form as he broke the deadlock in a tight encounter at the Etihad Stadium after 71 minutes.

The win lifted City above Arsenal into second in the table, one point behind leaders Liverpool, having played the same number of games in what is shaping up to be a tight title race.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half, but the second period was proving a frustrating affair until Haaland broke clear of the Bees defence to slot home a fine finish.

Brentford were the last team to beat City at home in November 2022 and, having also tested them in a 3-1 loss earlier this month, again caused them problems.

City, with Kevin De Bruyne on the bench, started the brighter, with Haaland shooting at Mark Flekken after just three minutes and Phil Foden also forcing a save and having another effort blocked.

But Brentford, to their credit, were not content to sit back and did pose a threat on the counter-attack.

Yoane Wissa was denied a chance to shoot by a fine John Stones tackle and Frank Onyeka should have done better than firing straight at Ederson after being played through on goal.

Ivan Toney also shot narrowly over from a free-kick, but the hosts then laid siege to the Bees’ goal and it was remarkable the opening period ended scoreless.

Julian Alvarez twice missed the target before Bernardo Silva planted a header the wrong side of a post from close range.

Manuel Akanji had a good strike from distance tipped over by Flekken and Ruben Dias saw a header pushed away.

Oscar Bobb looked certain to score after skipping around Christian Norgaard, but Ben Mee stretched to clear off the line.

Brentford ended the first half with another chance as an Onyeka header was claimed at full stretch by Ederson and City were surprisingly slow to get going again after the break.

Guardiola tried to enliven proceedings by introducing Jeremy Doku on the hour, but the Bees responded by sending on the abrasive Neal Maupay, who clashed with Kyle Walker in the sides’ recent meeting.

After Foden blazed an attempt well over, it began to look like it might take something special to break the deadlock and that moment duly arrived 19 minutes from time.

Brentford were pushing forward, but their attack was broken up and the ball quickly moved forward, with Rodri finding Alvarez and the Argentinian releasing Haaland.

The Norwegian still had more than half the length of the field to run, but he was quickly into his stride and breezed past a stumbling Kristoffer Ajer before slotting past Flekken from the edge of the area.

The goal was greeted with much relief, but Brentford were not done and Toney shot narrowly over after Dias gave away possession.

City might have had more late on, with Haaland having a header disallowed for offside and Flekken twice saving from Foden.

Phil Foden feels he is in the form of his life as he eyes a second successive treble with Manchester City.

The England midfielder stepped up in the injury-enforced absence of Kevin De Bruyne to thrive in a central role in numerous games in the first half of the season.

De Bruyne’s return to action over the past month has seen Foden’s position vary since but his performance levels have rarely dipped.

Playing alongside De Bruyne, the 23-year-old again excelled in Tuesday’s Champions League victory at FC Copenhagen, capping a fine display with an eighth goal in 10 outings.

“I think it’s the most run of games that I’ve played in a City shirt consistently,” said Foden. “I’m in good form, scoring consistently and helping the team as much as I can and I’m delighted with that.

“I want to keep doing that, that’s the goal every game. I’d say I’m playing my best football in a City shirt.”

Foden has been touted for big things since he was in City’s junior ranks but it is now over six years since he made his senior debut.

When prolific striker Erling Haaland joined De Bruyne on the sidelines in December, Foden felt it was time he took responsibility.

“I think I had to,” said Foden, who scored a hat-trick in last week’s Premier League win at Brentford. “They are two massive players for us, so key last year for us winning the treble. It was time for me to step up.”

City’s 3-1 win in Copenhagen in the first leg of their last-16 tie was their 11th in succession in all competitions.

They are strongly fancied to defend all three of the major trophies they won last season and Foden has no doubt the team have the hunger to do so.

He said: “We’re showing that we’re still determined and playing the same football as last year and still wanting to win all the games. Hopefully that continues and we don’t drop our level or form.

“We’re focused. We stick by each other and it’s a pleasure to be a part of this team. I look around the dressing room and I still see the determination and hunger.”

Foden has made no secret of his preference to play in a central position, something which became a matter of national debate earlier this season when England manager Gareth Southgate selected him in a wide role.

Foden said: “I’ve said previously that I prefer to play in the middle but I’ll do a job wherever the manager puts me. Tuesday I was out wide, and I got a goal and an assist. I’m delighted.”

Manchester City resumed their Champions League defence with a comfortable 3-1 win at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday.

Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva netted either side of an unexpected Magnus Mattson equaliser as City dominated a last-16 first leg they could have won far more convincingly.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated in every aspect at the Danish capital’s famously atmospheric Parken Stadium and Phil Foden completed a deserved success late on.

With close to 80 per cent possession, the holders were hardly troubled and will be confident of wrapping up a place in the quarter-finals when the sides meet again in Manchester in three weeks.

The only real downside for City was the loss of Jack Grealish through injury in the first half.

Despite having almost complete control, one thing City could not do was silence the home fans.

As anticipated, Copenhagen’s raucous following produced an intimidating atmosphere and greeted every City attack with loud whistles and even a siren.

Yet it appeared to have no effect on City, who immediately imposed themselves and should have taken the lead when De Bruyne fluffed a header from a Nathan Ake cross.

Ruben Dias also forced a save from Kamil Grabara and Ake fired the rebound over, although a raised flag suggested neither might have counted.

Copenhagen, their rustiness amid Denmark’s long winter break evident, were struggling to live with City and it came as no surprise when De Bruyne hit his 11th-minute opener.

The Belgian, who has quickly eased back into gear after a long injury lay-off, timed his run onto a Foden pass superbly and finished clinically with a low shot.

City looked hungry for more and Erling Haaland was inches away from meeting a De Bruyne cross before a Silva ball was deflected onto the woodwork by Denis Vavro.

City suffered a blow when Grealish, making his first start in six games, was forced off after 21 minutes soon after a challenge from Diogo Goncalves but his replacement Jeremy Doku added more energy to City’s attack.

Within moments of coming on Doku set up Haaland for what would have been a spectacular goal with a volleyed cross but the Norwegian’s overhead kick flew over.

City looked capable of running up a huge score but remarkably found themselves level when Ederson gifted the hosts an equaliser on 34 minutes.

The goalkeeper passed straight to Mohamed Elyounoussi and, although the former Southampton forward’s shot was blocked, debutant Mattson followed up with a fine finish.

Mattson, a recent signing from NEC Nijmegen, almost added another soon after but blazed over.

The home fans were animated but their excitement was not to last.

Silva restored normal order before the break with a fine flicked finish after De Bruyne got the better of Mattson to pick out the Portuguese.

De Bruyne almost added to the lead early in the second half when he tested Grabara before Haaland headed tamely at the keeper and Foden had an effort deflected wide.

Grabara also pushed away a long-range Doku strike and Haaland was twice denied by the keeper in stoppage time before Foden wrapped up the win after exchanging passes with De Bruyne.

Pep Guardiola felt his side had come through a tough game after grinding out a 2-0 victory over Everton on Saturday.

Erling Haaland struck twice in the latter stages to secure a hard-fought Premier League success for the champions at the Etihad Stadium.

It was City’s 10th successive triumph in all competitions and Guardiola said the manner of the win would stand them in good stead as they chase a repeat treble.

The City manager said: “I love to win this type of game. The difficulty is there. We knew it, we talked about it.

“Always Everton here at home is really complicated. We’ve lost a lot of points over many years.

“What pleased me the most is something the people cannot see – the body shape, the positivity, the body language.

“In the first half we were complaining. I know a 12.30 (kick-off) is more difficult but our body language was not good. The chemistry between the players, when they lose a ball or something is not going well, has to be better.

“But in the second half it was much better. In general it was well deserved.

“I like to win this type of game – suffering and knowing how difficult everything is – because we learn the lessons for what’s coming.”

With Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, who have both had lengthy lay-offs this season, now back in tandem and the rest of the squad fully fit, City’s momentum could be ominous for their rivals.

After last season’s achievements, doubts were cast over City’s durability as they stuttered in the autumn but Guardiola never had any concerns.

He said: “With Erling and Kevin we are stronger, that’s obvious, but when a team loses the consistency, we have to be worried with the way they train, behave and run.

“But it (good attitude) was always there. When that happens the team is alive. I was never concerned. Since day one I didn’t have the feeling.

“There are ups and downs, it’s normal, but I still liked what I saw.”

The defeat left Everton in the bottom three and without a league win in almost two months.

Manager Sean Dyche accepted his side had been beaten by a master finisher in Haaland, who broke the deadlock on 71 minutes and then wrapped up victory five minutes from time.

Dyche said: “That’s why he is who he is. He doesn’t have many touches in some games but he scores and that is the key.

“His finish for the first one – I have been speaking to the players recently about this – footballers scoring ‘trendy’ goals – whippers, dippers, clippers.

“He doesn’t think about that. Just score a goal. That’s the trendiest thing you’ll ever do. And he showed that, a good technique. Just smash it and don’t worry about anything else.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has dismissed talk of a repeat treble by saying he is “99.99” per cent certain it will not happen.

The champions are favourites to win a fourth Premier League title in succession and are also in strong contention to retain the Champions League and FA Cup.

Winning those trophies in back-to-back seasons would be unprecedented and therefore Guardiola, whose silverware haul in the past year also includes the European Super Cup and Club World Cup, feels it is unlikely.

The Spaniard said at a press conference: “Sextuple, ‘seventuple’? It’s a fairytale. It’s more complicated than that.

“We have 99.99 per cent possibility that we are not going to win the treble because it has never ever ever been done. The chances to do it again are like this (shows tiny gap between thumb and index finger) – minimal.

“If it was easy, another team – (Manchester) United in that time – would have done it again. It’s not easy.

“Everything is so difficult in this business. What we have done in the past is absolutely no guarantee of anything.

“What I like is that we are still there. We are close to the top of the league, we are in the other competitions.

“Hopefully we will arrive in March and April with the same feeling and if we have the same feeling, we will fight for the titles in May. This is the target.”

City have won their last nine games in all competitions and appear to be gathering familiar momentum at the right time.

Yet while the likes of Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez have earned praise for their form, and Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne have returned from injury, Jack Grealish’s levels have dipped.

The England international was one of the key players in last season’s treble success but has not hit the same heights this term and has not started City’s last four games.

His most recent subdued form comes after an unsettling incident in December when his home was burgled, while his fiancee and members of his family were in the property, as he played in a game at Everton.

Guardiola accepts that could have affected him.

He said: “I’m pretty sure (it did affect him). After a few days hopefully he forgot it but I’m pretty sure. I was affected too and I would have been affected too.

“It is not easy what happened with him, his girlfriend and family, so I’m pretty sure (it affected him).

“But he handled it really well. He is an incredible person with incredible humanity.

“Here, with security and people at his disposal, we have tried to help him but it happened. We haven’t spoken lately about that subject so hopefully it is fine.”

Guardiola pointed out Grealish’s lack of action was largely due to the form of other players.

He said: “It’s not a big, big problem – completely the opposite. He is competing with players at a high level. He is making steps to get his best (form). We need everyone and we need Jack.”

Phil Foden believes the Premier League title race will go to the wire this season.

The England midfielder scored a hat-trick in Manchester City’s 3-1 win at Brentford on Monday night.

It was a potentially pivotal victory which lifted City above Arsenal into second place, two points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.

“It’s going to be tight one. Liverpool and Arsenal are two top teams doing really well,” said Foden.

“They are going to push us until the end so we have to try and not drop points and try to win all of our games really.”

City fell behind against the run of play when Neal Maupay fired Brentford into the lead.

But Foden finally beat inspired Bees goalkeeper Mark Flekken to haul his side level before the interval.

The 23-year-old headed them in front early in the second half from Kevin De Bruyne’s cross, and then completed a stylish treble to ensure City’s title destiny is firmly in their own hands.

The treble winners also trailed in away matches against Everton and Newcastle recently, but Foden says they are beginning to show their mettle by coming back to win each time.

“Resilience. We keep proving it season after season,” he told the club website.

“We keep surprising everyone by keeping our standards high and it’s down to the manager and this fantastic group of players.

“It’s the togetherness, when things aren’t going right, to bounce back.”

Nerves are starting to jangle at Brentford, who have lost seven of their last eight matches and lie just three points above the relegation zone.

The fixture list does not offer much respite with City – again – Liverpool and Arsenal all on the schedule in the next few weeks.

But boss Thomas Frank is looking no further ahead than Saturday’s trip to Wolves.

“I’m always looking just one game ahead; that’s where our maximum focus is,” he said.

“It’s the same top focus on the next game. Every game we will have a very good chance to win it and that will be the same on Saturday.”

Pep Guardiola has dismissed suggestions from Spanish media that Erling Haaland is unhappy at Manchester City.

There have been claims that the prolific Norwegian striker dislikes the city – and its weather – so much that he wants to leave the club.

Perhaps inevitably, the reports suggest Real Madrid are monitoring the situation but Guardiola is not taking the rumours seriously.

“You have to ask the media from Madrid if he is unhappy,” said the City manager. “Maybe they have more info than we have.

“We don’t have that feeling that he’s unhappy. He was because he could not play – he was two months out injured – but maybe the media from Spain, especially Madrid, have more information than us.”

Haaland returned to action after 10 games out with a foot injury in the champions’ 3-1 Premier League victory over Burnley on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old could start as City travel to Burnley on Monday looking to add to the 19 goals in all competitions he has already scored this season and the remarkable 52 he netted last term.

Guardiola said: “We cannot say he didn’t adapt quickly and he was not fine since he arrived – it’s just the level he’s shown since day one.

“We cannot control what people say but the important thing is he’s happy. When he’s unhappy, he will take his decision.”

Haaland did not get on the scoresheet after coming off the bench against the Clarets but, even in his brief appearance, Guardiola felt his influence on the team was clear.

He said: “He played 25 minutes and every transition, every pass, all the players look at him. I know how important he is for us.

“We try for all the strikers to be happy, especially him, and it will depend how we play. If we play quite comfortable and good, he will get a lot of balls.

“This is what we want and after that he will do the rest.”

Haaland’s return to action coincided with Kevin De Bruyne’s first start since August and John Stones’ comeback from an ankle injury.

Asked if Haaland was now ready to start, Guardiola said at a press conference: “Yes, he’s ready.

“Everyone is ready right now because they are not injured as much. If they are on the bench, they are ready.”

Pep Guardiola admits he faces a selection headache now that all of his Manchester City stars are back fit as the Premier League title race heats up.

Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Burnley saw Kevin De Bruyne make his first start since the opening day of the season following a hamstring injury, while Erling Haaland returned from a foot problem as a second-half substitute.

But it was again Julian Alvarez who was the star for City, with the Argentinian World Cup winner scoring twice in the first half as City cruised to victory.

The hosts took complete control when Rodri added a third early in the second half before Ameen Al-Dakhil got a late consolation for Vincent Kompany’s men.

Alvarez has enjoyed an extended run in Guardiola’s side this season, in large part thanks to De Bruyne’s absence and his brace took him to 15 goals for the campaign.

“For his age, for the numbers in the Premier League, for what he gives to all the team it is unbelievable,” Guardiola said.

“He’s a world champion playing alongside (Lionel) Messi, (Angel) Di Maria and Enzo Fernandez. If you are not good you cannot play in that team.

“He can play in three different positions and have an incredible sense with the intensity to run. He’s really good.”

That versatility could be key to Alvarez’s hopes of retaining his place in the City starting eleven.

“They can play together,” added. “They are exceptional players. It gives me more of a headache for selection but they need to compete with each other.”

After missing 10 games with a bone injury, Haaland started the night on the bench and came on to replace De Bruyne in the 71st minute. His first attempt at goal was a mis-kick, but Guardiola was pleased with the way he led the line.

Asked if he needed to be eased back in, Guardiola said: “If it was 7-0 at half-time he would have played more minutes. If it was 0-0 maybe he wouldn’t have played a minute.

“I saw him sharp, the feeling that he was there. He didn’t have clear chances but he has three or four, and the moment when Jeremy (Doku) didn’t see him but he can score with his quality.

“It has been really good without him for the last two months but with him we are a better team and we are really pleased that he is back.”

Burnley, without a top-flight win away to Manchester City since 1963, probably knew what to expect from the night, but at least took consolation from Al-Dakhil’s late goal, their first at the Etihad since 2019.

But the loss leaves them still deep in trouble, seven points adrift of safety with only 12 points from 22 games.

“It’s never great when you lose,” former City captain Kompany said. “They’re a great side, we know that. It felt like a lot had to go our way for us to get something.

“In moments we were dangerous. We could’ve avoided the goals. We have to move on against Fulham (on Saturday).

“My job is to give the guys support in these moments and hold them accountable. But we’re playing against a team that exploits every mistake… we’re showing bits that should make us confident.”

Kompany indicated he is still hopeful of some business before Thursday’s transfer deadline, but admitted finding game-changing signings was highly unlikely.

“I hope something will happen tomorrow,” he said. “We have to rely on the boys we have. You can make miracle transfers but they’re very difficult to find.”

Julian Alvarez struck twice and Erling Haaland returned to action as Manchester City eased to a 3-1 win over relegation-threatened Burnley.

Argentinian World Cup-winner Alvarez, on his 24th birthday, netted twice in the first half and Rodri added a third as the champions went untroubled until Ameen Al-Dakhil grabbed a stoppage-time consolation at the Etihad Stadium.

City were further cheered by the sight of Haaland returning from injury as a late substitute while Kevin De Bruyne made his first Premier League start since August.

It was a miserable return to the ground for former City captain Vincent Kompany, the Burnley manager, with his side comprehensively beaten and left seven points adrift of safety.

Given their predicament and having conceded 37 goals in their previous nine visits to the Etihad, the Clarets were hardly expected to trouble the treble winners.

Yet this was an especially limp performance and City, aided by some poor defending, barely got out of second gear.

After 15 minutes of the home side calmly controlling possession, Phil Foden caught the visitors off-guard as he released Matheus Nunes with a flicked ball.

The Portuguese’s first cross was blocked but he was given all the time he needed to attempt it for a second time, and casually picked out an unmarked Alvarez to head home from close range.

Burnley were caught napping again just six minutes later as the striker doubled City’s lead from a cleverly-taken set-piece.

De Bruyne spotted a huge gap in the area as he lined up a free-kick and played a low ball in for Alvarez to turn and slot past former City youngster James Trafford.

It was a routine that had clearly been worked on in training as manager Pep Guardiola made a point of congratulating his assistant Carlos Vicens, a dead-ball specialist.

City threatened more as Nunes tested Trafford from a tight angle and a dangerous Jeremy Doku cross was turned behind.

Burnley had a rare chance when Lyle Foster curled an effort narrowly wide but City tightened their grip in the opening minute of the second half.

Foden was again instrumental as he raced onto a De Bruyne throughball and pulled back for Rodri, who nonchalantly passed into the net from the edge of the area.

Burnley had a fleeting opportunity as Zeki Amdouni blazed over and their frustration was evident as Connor Roberts got involved in a needless confrontation with Rico Lewis and Ederson.

After that the biggest cheers from City fans came as Haaland entered the fray 19 minutes from time.

He was unable to find the net despite some good runs and one air shot.

Burnley had the final say when Al-Dakhil turned in a cross from debutant David Datro Fofana’s cross but the outcome had long since been determined.

Nathan Ake admitted to a sense of relief that Manchester City finally broke their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium curse to stay on track to defend their FA Cup crown.

The holders squandered a number of chances in Friday’s fourth-round tie at Spurs before Ake poked home from close range with two minutes left.

It represented City’s first goal at Tottenham’s new home at the sixth time of asking and the centre-back conceded it felt like being another night to forget until his timely intervention.

“So happy. It was tough but we played really well over the whole game. We just had to score and it didn’t happen again for a long time. I was thinking is it going to happen but luckily we got it,” Ake said.

“I think trusting the way we played (was key). We played really well, created numerous chances and just the belief to keep going. Even though we didn’t score, just to keep going, keep trying and in the end we got it.

“I thought it is never going to come but finally we’ve done it.”

The introduction of Kevin De Bruyne proved crucial and it was his corner which created Ake’s 88th-minute winner.

De Bruyne had been left red-faced six minutes earlier when he curled wide with only Guglielmo Vicario to beat, but made amends with an exceptional set-piece delivery.

The 1-0 win made it seven victories in a row for City, who remain in the hunt for another treble after claiming Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League success last season.

Ake told ITV: “I think it was important to go through, we want to fight for every competition and this was a big step forward.”

Following a lacklustre first half, all eyes were on when De Bruyne and fit-again Spurs playmaker James Maddison would get the nod to come on.

Maddison made his first appearance since he sustained ankle ligament damage on November 6, but only touched the ball six times as Tottenham struggled to gain a foothold in the contest.

Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou hoped Maddison would be better for his 17-minute cameo with games to come against Brentford and Everton next week.

“Knowing the nature of the game, he’s trained well this week-and-a-half but he’s missed a lot of football,” Postecoglou explained.

“We were hoping to get him some minutes, which he did and he should be right to go from now on, but there’s another two games next week and we need him and others to pitch in.

“So, yeah it wasn’t really much of a dilemma about whether to start him or not. I just felt that coming off the bench was going to be better for us as a team more than anything else.”

Pep Guardiola lauded an unbelievable performance from his Manchester City side after they ended their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium goal drought with a narrow 1-0 away win.

City had failed to score in their previous five trips to Spurs’ home and an FA Cup fourth-round replay looked on the cards when substitute Kevin De Bruyne inexplicably fired wide from 16 yards with eight minutes left.

The breakthrough did finally arrive for the visitors with 88 minutes on the clock when Guglielmo Vicario flapped at De Bruyne’s corner with Ruben Dias in close proximity and Nathan Ake poked home from close range to end the FA Cup holders barren run at Tottenham.

“Deserved it? I think so but football is about scoring, not conceding and the statistics were really good today,” Guardiola explained.

“If you see the stats from the past when we come here, we could not score and could not win.

“Yeah, we are really pleased of course to win against this team away, score a goal and go through. We defend the title and the way we play, we proved we defend it really well.

“Unbelievable. The performance was top, top class. These players prove again the reason why they have done what they have done in the past.”

City had the ball in the net after five minutes but Oscar Bobb was adjudged to be marginally offside after Vicario had thwarted Foden from close range.

Spurs barely had a kick in the first half and while Brennan Johnson was denied by Stefan Ortega at the start of the second period, it proved the hosts’ only shot all match.

Guardiola’s team continued to press for their maiden goal at Tottenham’s stadium and after Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne and substitute Jeremy Doku all failed to make the most of promising situations late on, Ake produced the goods with two minutes left.

It was a dangerous delivery from De Bruyne which caused panic in the Spurs box on only his third appearance since his lengthy lay-off following a serious hamstring injury sustained last season.

Asked if De Bruyne was fit enough to start, Guardiola said: “He is ready. Ready to play.

“Sooner or later he will play from the beginning, but it’s not just about that. For many reasons we want to protect him and Kevin, today I always knew he was going to create.

“These type of games at the end, it was a little bit more open and we had that feeling. It is important he feels good after his hamstring problem and he made an exceptional corner in the right spot. We knew it, so yeah it’s really good.”

Guardiola also reflected on the news on Friday morning that great rival Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool at the end of the season and dispelled any talk that he could follow suit.

“I am fine. Still one more year I want to do it and maybe extend (past 2025), so I am fine,” Guardiola insisted.

Meanwhile, opposite number Ange Postecoglou cut a frustrated figure after Spurs exited the FA Cup following a lacklustre display, which will all but ensure the club’s trophy drought will extend into a 17th year.

Postecoglou admitted: “We fought hard to stay in the game but to be honest that’s all we did, we stayed in the game.

“They’re a top team. They’re the benchmark. We’re not there yet and we’re under no illusion about that.

“I just felt that all of the second half was ok, the first half we were just too passive in a lot of our play and allowed them to get a rhythm.”

Nathan Ake’s 88th-minute tap-in helped Manchester City end their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hoodoo and progress into the FA Cup fifth round after a 1-0 away victory.

Pep Guardiola’s side had failed to score in their previous five visits to Spurs’ home and that unwanted record looked set to extend until Ake bundled home from close range after Guglielmo Vicario flapped at Kevin De Bruyne’s corner.

All eyes had been on De Bruyne and Tottenham playmaker James Maddison after a lacklustre first half and while the former helped break the deadlock, it was an uncharacteristic City goal that fired them to a seventh straight win.

Ange Postecoglou’s team could have little complaints and this cup loss means the club’s trophy drought will almost certainly extend into a 17th year.

These teams had played out a 3-3 draw at the Etihad last month, but both the club’s respective top goalscorers Son Heung-min and Erling Haaland were absent while playmakers Maddison and De Bruyne had to be content with a place on the bench.

City’s notoriously poor record at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was well documented and Guardiola’s side almost broke their duck in the fifth minute when Oscar Bobb tapped home on the goal line.

Bobb pounced after Vicario had denied Phil Foden from close range, but City youngster Bobb was adjudged by VAR to be marginally offside and it remained 0-0.

The visitors continued to seek a maiden goal at this venue and after Bernardo Silva and Mateo Kovacic had efforts blocked, Guardiola let out his first sign of exasperation when Josko Gvardiol sent a cross into the stand.

Spurs had barely had a kick but were given some unexpected respite when a three-minute delay to proceedings occurred due to one of Paul Tierney’s assistant referees having an issue with his technical equipment.

When play did get back under way, normal service resumed and a succession of last-ditch defending denied City in the 41st-minute with Bobb’s left-footed strike thwarted by Pedro Porro’s block.

Foden was the next to try his luck but fired wide from Bobb’s cut back to ensure it was goalless at the break.

Micky van de Ven made a vital intervention straight after half-time when Julian Alvarez had a sight of goal before Tottenham finally caused a moment of panic for the away side.

Timo Werner sent Brennan Johnson through on goal, but City’s back-up goalkeeper Stefan Ortega was out quick to dive at the feet of the forward.

It reenergised the home crowd although Guardiola turned to his ace in the pack with 65 minutes on the clock when De Bruyne was introduced.

Postecoglou followed suit eight minutes later and Maddison earned a hero’s reception on his return, but his first involvement was to bundle Silva to the floor in the penalty area.

Referee Tierney waved away appeals before Spurs and in particular Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg received two slices of luck.

A Hojbjerg air kick allowed Silva a chance but he fired straight at Vicario before Tottenham’s Danish midfielder gave away possession to Foden.

Foden teed up De Bruyne, who inexplicably curled wide from 16 yards and when Vicario saved from Jeremy Doku moments later, a replay was on the cards.

Ake had other ideas and when Vicario flapped at De Bruyne’s corner, the City defender was on hand to poke home and send the holders through to the last 16.

Erling Haaland is still out but Kevin De Bruyne is ready to start for Manchester City at Newcastle on Saturday, manager Pep Guardiola has said.

Striker Haaland is still troubled by the foot injury that has sidelined him since early December.

The Premier League champions, however, are boosted by De Bruyne’s progress after the playmaker’s return from a lengthy lay-off as a second-half substitute in last weekend’s FA Cup victory over Huddersfield.

City also expect midfielder Jack Grealish to be available after illness, but defender John Stones is not yet ready to return from an ankle injury.

City manager Guardiola said at a press conference: “Jack has been sick. Hopefully today he’s back. Erling is out and John is out.”

De Bruyne said last week he expected to be on the bench at Newcastle, but asked if he could start, Guardiola said: “Yes. What I saw yesterday he looks really good and dynamic.

“The minutes he played were really good, better than the training sessions before the Huddersfield game when he was a little bit not what he is.

“But that’s normal when you come from five months of injury. He had highs and lows in the training sessions, but that is completely normal. The important thing is he is getting better.”

Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne as exceptional and unique after his impressive return to action in Manchester City’s FA Cup stroll against Huddersfield.

The Belgian playmaker appeared as a 57th-minute substitute and set up a goal as the holders breezed past the Championship strugglers 5-0 in a one-sided third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

It was De Bruyne’s first outing in five months after a long lay-off following hamstring surgery and his comeback is timely as City step up the intensity for the second half of the campaign.

City manager Guardiola said: “He played really good minutes. We thought it was better to play the second half than from the beginning when the game was tighter.

“It was so difficult to find space. They defended so so deep and were really well organised, compact.

“It was really good and now, as I said before, he needs to accumulate training sessions and more training sessions, more than games. Still he is not ready for 90 minutes.

“Kevin helps to win games and there are few (like him) in the world. We can play good football-wise but Kevin, (Erling) Haaland, Phil (Foden), Julian (Alvarez) – these guys win games.

“That’s why it’s so important to have him back. Kevin is exceptional, he is unique.

“He was a long time out with surgery. His first minutes, the quality of the assist for the Jeremy (Doku) goal – it’s really good to have him back.”

De Bruyne put the seal on City’s performance by teeing up City’s fifth goal for Doku, who was also making his return from injury.

Foden had already struck twice with Alvarez also on target and City benefiting from a Ben Jackson own goal.

Haaland was again absent through injury but, with a lighter schedule this month, Guardiola is hoping to get all his top names back as treble winners City again chase glory on three fronts.

He said: “What I want is to arrive in the second part of the season with everyone fit. I want Erling back, Kevin back, Jeremy and John (Stones). When they are back we have a team that can compete in different competitions until the end.”

Huddersfield manager Darren Moore hopes his side will learn from a difficult experience.

Moore said: “It was always going to be a tough game. We tried to come here and nullify the areas where Man City are excellent in and thought we did that to start off with.

“You have to try and start on a positive note and disrupt their passing rhythm, but when the first goal goes in and then there is quickfire second one, the game runs away from you a bit.

“The boys were just talking about the quality they were coming up against. Sometimes in moments of defeat it about the learning perspective and that is what we have taken from today.”

Kevin De Bruyne made an eye-catching return and Phil Foden struck twice as holders Manchester City thrashed Huddersfield 5-0 in the FA Cup third round.

Julian Alvarez and Jeremy Doku were also on target as City – further aided by an own goal – swept aside their Championship opponents in a one-sided third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The impact of the in-form Foden was again impressive but De Bruyne’s comeback, after five months out, was arguably of greater significance.

The Belgian was given just over half an hour at the end of the game and he marked the occasion by teeing up a goal for fellow returnee Doku.

His presence brought some of the biggest cheers of the afternoon from the home fans, whose noise was drowned out by that of the 6,000-strong visiting support early on.

Yet Huddersfield, not surprisingly given their struggles in the second tier this season, could not match the intensity of their fans as City, without hitting top gear, comfortably outplayed them.

The visitors resisted well for the opening half an hour, limiting Alvarez to a long-range shot which was comfortably saved by Lee Nicholls while Oscar Bobb had an effort unwittingly blocked by team-mate Rico Lewis.

The visitors showed some spirit by launching a handful of counter-attacks but the final ball was generally lacking.

Sorba Thomas did get through on goal on one occasion but he failed to beat Stefan Ortega and the offside flag indicated it would not have counted anyway.

City suffered a blow when Manuel Akanji limped off after a heavy challenge from Alex Matos, who was booked, but they soon began to step up the pressure.

Huddersfield were pegged back as Sergio Gomez had a low ball turned behind and a Foden shot was deflected to safety.

The opener came on 33 minutes as Mateo Kovacic slipped in Alvarez and his firm pass was well taken and rifled in by Foden at close range.

The second followed just four minutes later as Matheus Nunes linked with Foden and then found Lewis, who squared for Alvarez to stretch and poke home.

Bobb went close early in the second half as he cut inside but dragged his shot wide.

De Bruyne was introduced on 57 minutes in a double change that also saw Doku make his return from injury.

City claimed their third goal moments later as Nunes controlled a high ball and played wide to Bobb, whose attempted cross to De Bruyne at the far post flicked off Ben Jackson and looped into the net.

Huddersfield had a brief flurry as Thomas forced Ortega to save with his feet when through one on one but City’s fourth was not long in coming.

Again Foden did the damage, calmly stroking the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area from a well-worked short-corner routine.

De Bruyne created the fifth as he surged upfield, played a one-two with Bobb and then pulled the ball back for Doku to thump in on the half-volley.

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