Manchester City travelled to Brighton & Hove to take on the Seagulls in Premier League action on Saturday. The match looked as if it would indeed be a stroll along the beach, with City imposing on their hosts often in the first half. To their credit, Brighton found some answers in the dressing room and were a much more assertive side in the second half. In the end however, The Blues were able to see out the win and collect the three points on the road.
City were coming off a Tuesday evening trip to Belgium. They were able to handle UCL Group Stage opponent Club Brugge 5-1, but recent history told us that it would make for an uphill climb back in England. Man City had lost in each of their previous four Prem matches directly following a Champions League fixture. Pep Guardiola's side put an end to that streak and buried it under an avalanche of first half goals.
From the opening kick, Man City were on the ball and dominated possession. The starting attacking midfield pair of Ilkay Gündogan and Bernardo Silva orchestrated a probing City offense that created chances throughout the first 10 minutes. The pair regularly sent crisp passes to the feet of forwards Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, and Gabriel Jesus. With Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker, and Rodri pushing up to apply the press to any turnover opportunity that Brighton might create, it was only a matter of time before the Mancunians would break through.
In the 13th minute Ilkay opened the scoring after receiving a sublime over the shoulder flick from Bernardo that set him up in the 6 yard box with an vacant net. BHA keeper Robert Sanchez was off his line after challenging a deflected shot from Foden that had popped high into the air off the back of Lewis Dunk. Jesus jumped to head the ball as Sanchez tried to collect it. The ball glanced off his hands and fell to the feet of Silva. With his back to goal, the Portuguese maestro flicked over his right shoulder to the waiting Gündogan to put City ahead.
The Cityzens had Brighton pinned in their own end to this point and they wouldn’t let up for the rest of the half. When BHA were able to escape their own end, they didn’t fair much better. Nearing the half hour mark, Brighton mounted an attack from their own end that found them with the ball on the left of the City Penalty Area. The first pass into the the box was deflected by Rúben Dias to Rodri who found Bernardo, and the break was on. Silva sped through the midfield and found Grealish ahead on his left with a perfectly weighted through ball. Grealish forced Sanchez to commit to him and slotted a pass to Foden who roofed a shot amid the challenge of Jakub Moder.
Now up 2-0, City would use the press to create a third. Bernardo stepped in front of a pass from Dunk at midfield and again the hunt was on. Silva connected with Jesus as he moved toward the Brighton goal. Gabby then hit a trailing Grealish on the left. Jack’s shot was saved by Sanchez but the rebound went straight to Jesus who ripped a shot that wound up in the Seagulls net. The goal would be awarded to Foden after taking a deflection, giving Phil a first half brace.
The rest of the half would see Man City continue to dominate the ball. BHA were able to generate just one shot on target in the first stanza and Ederson saw very little of the ball as the Seagulls were unable to create much offense. The teams headed for the changing rooms with the visitors enjoying a 3 goals to nil advantage, and looking to be a class ahead of the team that were 4th in the EPL table coming into the weekend.
The second half would see a change in the flow of the match. BHA were able to possess the ball much more after the break. City had as much as a 70 % shar of the ball at times in the first, but Brighton managed to see more of the ball and by the final whistle had brought the Blues back down to just 55% on the day. Brighton had only created one real chance in the opening period, but forced Ederson into 4 second half saves.
For all their work, Brighton was unable to create a goal from the flow of play. They finally got their goal on a 79th minute penalty call. Enock Mwepu, who had come on in the 57th minute with fellow sub Tariq Lamptey, made a run toward the end line as Leandro Trossard attempted to connect with the Zambian. Ederson came off his line and attempted a clumsy challenge that saw him lunge at Mwepu and bring him to ground after the City keeper hit him in the leg with his shoulder. The penalty was given despite a possible offside in the build up, and Argentinian Alexis Mac Allister, also a second half sub, scored after his shot deflected of Ederson’s hand into the net.
ALEXIS GETS ONE BACK! pic.twitter.com/6LvXfWw6Sg— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) October 23, 2021
It was all too late for Brighton however. City had all but put the match to bed at this point, and they would seal it for good in stoppage time. Pep’s substitutes would figure into the final tally of the day as the high press forced Brighton into a turnover deep in their own end. After a Sanchez save on Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne forced a back pass from Moder that was misplayed by Dunk. Foden pounced on the mistake just inside the penalty area and found Fernandinho to his left. Dinho passed directly back to Phil who then switched the ball to a wide open Riyad Mahrez on the right. Mahrez calmly deposited City’s 4th goal of the day in the top right corner of Sanchez’s goal and the match was done and dusted.
City were glorious offensively in the first half. They were dominant, relentless, and creative. They nearly ran the hosts off the pitch in the first 45. The second period tested the Blues defensively. Brighton are by no means an offensive juggernaut, but City did well to keep them at bay despite all the pressure. The penalty was conceded and Brighton got on the score sheet, but all in all it was a very nice road win, and City keep pace with Chelsea who won earlier in the day.
Next up for City is a trip to East London and a date with the Hammers of West Ham United.