Manchester City stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to 12 points as Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne netted in a routine 2-0 win over Brentford on Wednesday.
The English champions were dominant throughout without ever hitting top form as Brentford succumbed to a sixth straight defeat which could see the Bees dragged into a relegation battle.
Brentford had held out bravely for 40 minutes until a mistimed tackle from Mads Roerslev brought down Raheem Sterling and Mahrez coolly slotted away the penalty.
Until that point City had been guilty of not taking their chances as Sterling fired over on the volley from Phil Foden’s perfect cross and Aymeric Laporte side-footed inches wide from Ruben Dias’ knockdown.
The hosts never looked in danger of conceding as they registered a 14th clean sheet in 23 league games this season.
However, Pep Guardiola’s celebrations when the second goal finally arrived 20 minutes from time told the story of nerves beginning to build around the Etihad that their dominance was not showing on the scoreboard.
Brentford’s determination to play out from the back caught them out as David Raya passed straight to Sterling.
The Spanish goalkeeper redeemed himself by saving a one-on-one with the England international, but the ball fell kindly for De Bruyne to roll in his eighth goal of the season.
Christian Eriksen was not among the Brentford squad as he edges slowly towards a return to football after suffering a cardiac arrest just eight months ago at Euro 2020.
But they may need some inspiration from the Dane to survive their first season in the English top flight for 74 years.
A bright start means Thomas Frank’s men still have a six-point cushion over the bottom three, but they are the fading force and all the sides below them in the table have games in hand.
City have no such worries as they close in on a fourth title in the past five years.