AFP/Manchester, United Kingdom
Phil Foden fired Manchester City into third place in the Premier League yesterday as Pep Guardiola’s men saw off a feisty challenge from Brighton to win 1-0. Much of the recent talk has been about a potential duel between leaders Manchester United and champions Liverpool but Pep Guardiola’s men are now right in the mix. The 2018 and 2019 champions started the season sluggishly but have hit the accelerator in recent weeks and are now just one point behind Liverpool with a game in hand.
City played without a recognised striker against Graham Potter’s Brighton but despite not being at their best in soggy Manchester, eventually had just enough to beat the well-organised visitors. The home side dominated possession in the early stages without creating much of note and Brighton carried an intermittent threat on the break. City had a golden chance to take an early lead when the impressive Kevin De Bruyne was put through by Ilkay Gundogan but goalkeeper Robert Sanchez blocked the Belgian’s shot right-footed shot from close range.
Brighton’s Leandro Trossard had a chance to test the returning Ederson in the City goal but he bent his shot wide. As City found their rhythm, Joel Veltman reacted well to clear before Foden could poke the ball in the net and De Bruyne had another chance five minutes from half-time after a swift break but his powerful shot was well saved.
City’s pressure finally told in the 44th minute. Foden received the ball from De Bruyne on the left of the attack. The 20-year-old wriggled past two Brighton defenders and stroked the ball inside the near post from the edge of the box.
It was the England international’s eighth goal of the season – he is City’s top-scorer in all competitions this campaign. No player has more assists in all competitions than De Bruyne, with 14. The goal meant Brighton had to change their game plan for the second half. Riyad Mahrez should have doubled the lead in the 58th minute, sending his left-footed shot wide after being put through. City again went close. Gundogan forced a good save from Sanchez and the rebound fell to Bernardo Silva, who hit the woodwork. Brighton’s goal was leading a charmed life and Sanchez denied Joao Cancello and De Bruyne as the home side kept probing. But City lacked the control they had in the first half and never looked entirely comfortable with such a narrow lead.
Brighton engineered some promising situations but failed to properly test Ederson. De Bruyne won a late penalty after Sanchez brought him down but substitute Raheem Sterling blazed his spot-kick over the bar. The win means City are now unbeaten in their 14 games in all competitions and have won seven in a row.
City have largely brushed off the absences of a number of players as a result of various coronavirus issues. Sergio Aguero missed out as he continues his period in self-isolation after being identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. But Ederson was back in goal following a spell on the sidelines after testing positive for Covid-19 and Gabriel Jesus, who also contracted the virus, appeared as a substitute.
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