Evan Toney has recovered from England’s loss Globalism Cup team by scoring twice as Brentford won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola warned before the game that his stars might have “one eye” on staying injury-free ahead of the World Cup and the City manager’s fears were realized as the champions slipped to their first home defeat since February.
City can now qualify for the World Cup by five points from the top of the table if Arsenal beat Wolverhampton later on Saturday.
Guardiola’s concerns did not stop him from naming the 10-man starting squad heading to Qatar.
Erling Haaland was the lone exception as Norway failed to qualify and he returned to the starting line-up for the first time in six matches due to a foot injury.
But Haaland was for once arrogant with his opposite number as Toni produced a perfect response for snubbing Gareth Southgate.
Toney should have opened the scoring when he shot close to Ederson with the goalkeeper only to beat him early.
But City didn’t heed the warning, as Ben Mee nodded his free kick past Tony-Emerick Laporte for his 10th goal of the season.
The decline has awakened the hosts from their slumber, but frustration has grown within the Etihad as a series of VAR ratings for penalty kicks have been conceded.
Rico Henry escaped the biggest claim because his handball occurred outside the area, while Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne were ruled to have hit the ground too easily.
City finally equalized in first-half injury time as Phil Foden connected perfectly in the half-volley to slot De Bruyne’s corner into the top corner.
The start of the second half was disrupted by a seven-minute stoppage for Aymeric Laporte to receive treatment for a head injury.
Laporte played with several bandages covering a cut and came to City’s rescue with a superb shot on the line to deny Henry’s cross from Bryan Mboymou.
City struggled to find their usual passing rhythm, but cut Brentford open with one stunning team move that Ilkay Gundogan should have finished off after a one-two exchange with Haaland.
Toney looked like he had squandered his chance to win the match when Ederson deftly deployed himself to narrow the angle in a one-on-one and block at his near post.
City, however, were counter-attacked by the visitors as Yoann Wissa and Josh Dasilva combined to find Toni in the net.
The Brentford skipper should then have had a memorable hat-trick to savor only to be denied by De Bruyne returning from his own goal line.
Despite this, the Bees were not denied their first away win of the season to set up an exciting title race once league matches resume after the World Cup.
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