As is his wish and occasional tendency, Pep Guardiola opened a can of worms hours before Manchester City came here to the rising beat of jungle drums.
Much of the discourse since Sunday – the fifth coronation in six years for a super team, one of the best we’ve ever seen – has focused on the Premier League charges of alleged financial misconduct rather than the stuff on the pitch and that understandably irritates Guardiola. .
That’s why the City manager decided to unload in the time all this is taking. Give us a clue is the synopsis. Guilty or not, he wants a quick resolution to continue with football. ‘Let’s go, 24 hours,’ he said, hoping for certainty instead of whispering, thinking his employers will clear his name.
Unfortunately, the law doesn’t work that way; Both City supporters and an army of detractors (a list that includes the boardrooms of several rival clubs) find themselves in a wasteland of unknown enemies fighting over bits of narrative.
Meanwhile, the team continues to do what it does, fans outside Amex Stadium gleefully chanting about ‘tic tac toe’ and the players then accept another honor guard.
Brighton have secured Europa League football for next season after holding City to a draw
The Premier League champions looked a bit sluggish after their title celebrations.
Phil Foden (right) opened the scoring for Manchester City in the 25th minute of the game.
On the heels of Guardiola’s comments, there were calls that it was actually City lawyers who delayed all of this and, as the charges say, ‘obstructed’ the investigation. The city’s legal side might well argue that they didn’t feel like turning over intellectual property to the league that isn’t considered entirely relevant. But we are guessing. Everyone is guessing.
However, nothing was left to the imagination on the south coast last night. A sensational game of art, Brighton provides evidence of why they have beaten so many traditionally great teams this year, Julio Enciso’s incredible equalizing goal the product of Roberto De Zerbi boldly splitting the center halves and playing through City. Very few achieve that.
A yellow-carded Guardiola may well have left this place wondering if, in hindsight, it will have turned out to be a more difficult task than at least one of the upcoming finals. History awaits and the guy inside the other technical area is creating something of his own as well.
De Zerbi is becoming one of the pre-eminent managers across the continent and why it has been obvious since he took over at Brighton: European football is already secured and he does so with such contagious and enjoyable way of playing.
Brightonstart XI: Steele, Colwill, Gross, Welbeck, Enciso, Mitoma, Caicedo, Gilmour, Van Hecke, Estupinan, Buonanotte.
substitutes: McGill, Webster, Dunk, Mac Allister, Undav, Ayari, Ferguson, Veltman, Peupion.
Manchester City starting eleven: Ortega Moreno, Walker, Stones, Rodrigo, Lewis, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Foden, Haaland.
substitutes: Ederson, Phillips, Alvarez, Gomez, Charles, O’Reilly, Palmer, Robertson, Knight
The Italian asked Jan Paul van Hecke, against Erling Haaland in just his third league start, to rampage between central half and early midfield to unsettle the champions.
Levi Colwill performed similarly and it’s rare for the opposition to go to City with such vigour.
De Zerbi wanted to play with Guardiola’s pace and his team is well equipped to do that. An energy was bubbling here, Brighton celebrating and City trying to slow it all down.
So slow, in fact, that Guardiola berated Ilkay Gundogan and demanded the captain raise his level as the Seagulls launched themselves into challenges and defeated their visitors.
Danny Welbeck hit the bar with a 25-yard free throw, conceded by Gundogan, and sooner found Phil Foden blocking it when clean.
Stefan Ortega, the rested Ederson backup goalkeeper, flustered in possession with relentless pressure and Kaoru Mitoma saw a goal disallowed on a handball from a corner. Such an obvious offense that a rugby TMO will have found Mitoma struck the ball short of the try line.
Before that, Foden put City ahead after 25 minutes. Haaland had missed a relative keeper, headed for the early gates and then bumped into Jason Steele when he was clear of the last man. But when he looked ready to waste another chance, the Norwegian nudged Foden and he wriggled past a defenseless Van Hecke. City had reached Brighton’s high line with a pass from Riyad Mahrez.
Enciso (above) scored an outright rocket from 25 yards to get Brighton back in the game
Erling Haaland scored for Manchester City in the second half, but his goal was disallowed
VAR reviewed the goal and disallowed it after claiming Haaland took off Colwill’s shirt
City manager Pep Guardiola received a yellow card after contesting Haaland’s disallowed goal.
Albion were on this, though, the best side for long spells, and the drifter Facundo Buonanotte thought he was finding a way to outmaneuver Ortega only for Enciso to finish that particular job six minutes before half-time. A goal so good that the City fans behind Ortega cheered before the ball hit the net, Enciso picked up possession from 30 yards out and, as John Stones fell back slightly, struck from the outside in with a hypnotic fade.
Welbeck also had him in the net, but was deemed to be marginally offside. Guardiola was the one who begged for everything to stop now. Foden then headed in from six yards seconds later; it was that kind of night. A Brighton fan, on his way for a pint, yelled ‘bellissimo, bellissimo’.
An apt description for a captivating watch, one that saw City leave several first-team players at home, start a midfielder at the back and look to be sporting some pretty tired limbs. Sunday’s title party at Mnky Hse ran late, to be fair. De Zerbi liked this, he introduced Evan Ferguson and Alexis Mac Allister after half time to build momentum, the latter probably a goodbye to these home fans before moving on.
Pervis Estupinan lined up one and the Amex thought that was it, with 14 minutes to go, only for it to whistle inches from the post. So close that Guardiola, on his knees, smiled mischievously at the opposite bench. However, he did not smile when Haaland’s winner was disallowed for pulling on Colwill’s jersey.