Brighton ended Manchester City's 12-game winning run in the Premier League to ensure they will play in the Europa League next season.
With City having already lifted the trophy, this game could have had the feeling of after the Lord Mayor's show, but Roberto De Zerbi's exciting team ensured a proper competition was had.
Phil Foden gave the champions the lead with a scuffed finish after an unselfish pass from Erling Haaland, who had already spurned two excellent openings. Brighton threatened when Danny Welbeck hit the woodwork with a curling free-kick and equalised through a stunning strike from Julio Enciso.
The 19-year-old forward picked up the ball in space before unleashing a goal of the season contender into the top corner from distance. Welbeck then had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside call as Brighton kept pushing for a second goal.
Although the match dipped in intensity in the second half, it was the hosts who had the better of the chances, firing in more shots than City had faced in any of their other 36 Premier League matches this season.
Haaland had a goal ruled out by VAR for a shirt pull late on, meaning City's winning run, which dated back to February 25, came to an end. Brighton are now sure of sixth place and a position in next season's Europa League.
Here are the talking points from the enjoyable match on the south coast.
The first talking point arrived before kick-off, in the shape of Pep Guardiola’s team sheet, which did not contain the names of Aymeric Laporte, Manuel Akanji, Ruben Dias or Jack Grealish. Had they partied too hard after being crowned champions? Guardiola didn’t give much away.
“They are not fit,” he told Sky Sports. “I don’t know what happened but after winning the Premier League many players get injured – three, four, five, all of them not fit. No Aymeric, Manuel, no Ruben, no Grealish. We’ll see how they recover in the next [few] days.”
Rodri played alongside John Stones as a makeshift centre-back, while Rico Lewis got the nod at left-back. With an FA Cup and Champions League final on the horizon, City fans will hope they have simply been left out as a precaution.
No Grealish meant a start for Foden – and he certainly grabbed his opportunity. By the time he opened the scoring, he could easily have had two assists, had Haaland not spurned a back-post header and a one-on-one opportunity.
But he did help himself to his 11th Premier League goal of the season soon after as Haaland returned the favour, squaring when he could have scored himself. Foden’s scuffed effort probably should not have made its way past Jan Paul van Hecke, but it was a timely goal for the England international as he pushes his case to start the upcoming finals.
His substitution for Cole Palmer after 50 minutes is a slight worry in that regard, with the 22-year-old gesturing to the bench after picking up a knock.
Brighton ’s recruitment model is unrivalled and, in Roberto De Zerbi, they have the perfect manager to make the most out of it.
A few months ago, many people might not have heard of Julio Enciso, but the Paraguayan teenager now looks set to be the next star off the conveyor belt on the south coast. His goal was absolutely outstanding – “Ronaldo-esque”, according to Jamie Redknapp – and came about as a direct result of the Seagulls’ style of play.
Rather than kicking it long, Jason Steele played through the City press to Levi Colwill, who drove forward and found Enciso in space. His strike was pure and reminiscent of his match-winner against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
It wouldn't be a Premier League game without a bit of Video Assistant Referee controversy, would it? Well, it took a while, but it arrived eventually.
Haaland appeared to have won it for City with a thumping header from Palmer's back-post cross, only for VAR to take a second look. Referee Simon Hooper was sent to the pitchside monitor for a second look after protests from Levi Colwill.
The Norwegian certainly did pull Colwill back, but Guardiola didn't agree. The City manager was furious on the touchline and, after protesting to the fourth official, was shown the yellow card by Hooper.
Brighton’s starting line-up had an average age of just 24 years old: Steele (32), Gross (31), Van Hecke (22), Colwill (20), Estupinan (25), Gilmour (21), Caicedo (21), Buonanotte (18), Enciso (19), Mitoma (26), Welbeck (32).
It is one thing hoovering up some of the best young players in the world, but it is quite another having the confidence to give them enough opportunities to shine. Brighton have enjoyed one of the best campaigns in the club’s history this season, despite seeing their manager poached by Chelsea.
The style with which they play deserves a huge amount of credit. Other clubs could learn from their bravery.2023-05-24T21:07:19Z dg43tfdfdgfd