All the hallmarks of Pep Guardiola’s tenure were on display, with intense hard-work and tenacity coupled with outstanding attacking quality.
An Alexis Mac Allister penalty with 10 minutes remaining cut the arrears, but Riyad Mahrez‘s expert finish in injury time sealed a ninth win in our last 12 matches across all competition (W9, D2, L1).
City started strongly and Joao Cancelo had the first effort on target, drawing a decent save from Brighton ‘keeper Robert Sanchez low down to his right, before an outstanding goalline clearance from Lewis Dunk denied Gabriel Jesus from finishing off a swift City counter-attack.
But moments later City were ahead.
Sanchez spilled the ball inside the area after Phil Foden’s strike was deflected up into the air, Bernardo Silva hooked the ball goalward and Ilkay Gundogan tapped home from close range. After a brief VAR check, the goal was awarded.
It was Gundogan’s 13th Premier League goal of 2021 – only Mo Salah (16) and Harry Kane (15) have managed more.
It was just reward for a fine start to the game from City, who were playing with verve and vitality.
Sanchez went someway to making amends for his aberration in the build-up to the opener when he denied Foden and Jesus in quick succession, but a rapid counter-attack saw City deservedly double our lead.
Marc Cucurella, one of Brighton’s most potent attacking weapons, lost possession high up the field and City broke at pace. Gundogan’s fine slide-rule pass released Jack Grealish, who squared for Foden, and he finished off the underside of the bar.
City added another just three minutes later when Sanchez saved from Grealish, only for the rebound to fall to Jesus, whose first-time strike hit Foden and went in.
3-0 inside the opening 30 minutes. It was City at our rampant, free-flowing best and Brighton, a side who have started the season superbly, were struggling to live with us.
But Brighton responded superbly after the break. Ederson made saves from Pascal Groß and Leandro Trossard early in the second half, with City having to dig in defensively and weather the storm.
And with 10 minutes remaining, Brighton deservedly got a goal. Ederson brought down Enock Mwepu inside the area and substitute Alexis Mac Allister fired home, despite the City goalkeeper getting two hands to the ball.
City’s modus operandi is to dominate possession and control matches. It’s been the bedrock of our approach during Pep Guardiola’s five years in charge.
But this is a side full of invention - we have multiple ways of winning games - and it was our swift counter-attacks during the first half that were the central theme of this fine victory.
Brighton, to their credit, played positively. When they attacked, they did so in numbers.
But City’s hard work off the ball is a feature of our play, and when we stole possession, we attacked at speed, with the guile of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva in midfield, and the pace and attacking intent of Phil Foden upfront, a frightening proposition on the break.
Brighton dominated the first 25 minutes of the second, but again City showcased our variety with some fine defensive moments, before playing keep-ball for the final 10 minutes to frustrated the home side and confirm the win.
Man of the Match: Bernardo Silva
What more is there to say about Bernardo Silva?
He has been City’s premium player so far this season, which is a huge compliment given the consistently high level the team has shown.
And he was at his best at the AMEX. He works harder than anyone and possesses real quality on the ball.
Quick feet, eye-of-a-needle passing and an ability to drift into dangerous areas, he is unplayable when he hits this kind of form.
A special word for Phil Foden, too. He is now entering the upper echelons of the game, such is his brilliance.
“Some players play in one position, some play football.
“Phil in dropped positions is maybe more dangerous because he is so young, but he has the quality to play in the final third.
“He can play striker, False 9, winger right and left.
“In the last games he has many chances and in front of keeper didn’t take right decisions because is young - but I am more than pleased with the performances he has given.”
“I thought from the start we looked very good in possession, we controlled the game.
“Sometimes at 3-0 up you can drop your level. We’re a bit disappointed with the second half but we dug in and got the win.”
XI: Sanchez, Cucurella, Dunk, Maupay (Mwepu 58’), Trossard, Gross (Mac Allister 72’), Lallana, Moder, March, Burn (Lamptey 58’), Veltman
Subs: Steele, Lamptey, Webster, Connolly, Bissouma, Mac Allister, Mwepu, Duffy, Richards
Kevin De Bruyne‘s second-half appearance as a sub was his 272nd for City in all competitions, moving him into the top 50 all-time appearance makers for the club.
⚽️ Ilkay Gundogan has now scored a goal in each of his 3 PL apps at Brighton - Jamie Vardy (4) is the only away player to score more PL goals at Amex Community Stadium pic.twitter.com/5izisNmfBt— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) October 23, 2021
What it means
The win sees City leapfrog Liverpool and move into second place, two points ahead of the Merseysiders. Jurgen Klopp’s side can go back above City if they win at Manchester United tomorrow.
We now have 20 points from our first nine matches, having negotiated a series of difficult away fixtures already. It’s a healthy position to be in.
Chelsea’s thumping 7-0 win over Norwich earlier in the day means they remain top, two points ahead of us with 22 from a possible 27.
Our focus now switches to the Carabao Cup, with a trip to the London Stadium to face West Ham on Wednesday.
That game kicks off at 19:45 and we will have full coverage on ManCity.com and on the official Man City app.
We are looking to win that competition for a fifth-successive season – and a seventh time in nine seasons.
Since a young City side last exited the competition at the hands of Manchester United in a 1-0 fourth-round encounter in October 2016 during the early part of Guardiola’s first season in charge, the Club have become a by-word for Carabao Cup success.
In the ensuing five years since that 1-0 Old Trafford loss, we have lost just once, winning 23 of 24 matches (four of which came after a penalty shootout), with our only setback being a 1-0 loss to United in a semi-final second leg two seasons ago.
The game at West Ham is followed by a Premier League game at the Etihad next Saturday. Crystal Palace are the visitors for another 15:00 kick off.
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