City beat Brighton to return top | Pep: De Bruyne ‘incredibly special’

Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 home win over Brighton thanks to three second-half goals.

Liverpool’s victory over Manchester United on Tuesday had knocked the champions off the summit, but Pep Guardiola’s side responded with victory over the Seagulls to move a point above the Reds with six games to go.

After a frustrating goalless first half, City took the lead in the 53rd minute through Riyad Mahrez whose shot deflected off Joel Veltman and looped over goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

City’s second also came courtesy of a deflection, as Phil Foden’s strike from distance (65) went in off a defender to find the bottom corner.

Bernardo Silva curled in a third with eight minutes left to ensure the title race remains in City’s hands.

Team news

  • Kevin De Bruyne returned to the starting line-up as one of six changes made by manager Pep Guardiola following Saturday’s loss to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals.
  • Ederson was restored in goal while Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez also started. Ruben Dias was only deemed fit enough for the bench while Kyle Walker was again missing through injury.
  • Brighton were without Leandro Trossard, scorer of their winner at Tottenham on Saturday, and the suspended Yves Bissouma. Danny Welbeck and Solly March came in.

City overcome frustrating first half to win

Riyad Mahrez opens the scoring at the Etihad

Riyad Mahrez opens the scoring at the Etihad

City started the night in second, two points behind Liverpool and were looking to bounce back from Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s side.

But Guardiola’s team faced a Brighton side full of confidence, having won their last two games at Arsenal and Tottenham, as they frustrated City in the first half.

The visitors, though, nearly gifted City the lead as Sanchez’s misplaced pass found Mahrez, but Moises Caicedo’s fine sliding challenge spared the goalkeeper’s blushes.

Such was Brighton’s resistance, City were restricted to speculative efforts as Kevin De Bruyne fizzed a 25-yard shot just past the post while Bernardo Silva dug out a curling effort just inside the box that was pushed away by Sanchez.

Guardiola made a substitution at half-time as Ruben Dias made his return after seven weeks out with a hamstring injury, as the Portuguese defender replaced Nathan Ake.

The tension at the Etihad was lifted eight minutes into the second half, when De Bruyne’s superb driving counter-attack run found Mahrez, who scored on his 250th Premier League appearance thanks to a couple of fortunate deflections.

Just 12 minutes later, Foden doubled their lead for his 12th goal in all competitions.

Manchester City's Phil Foden celebrates scoring his sides second goa

Manchester City’s Phil Foden celebrates scoring his sides second goal

Then in the 82nd minute, after Brighton had made a mess of playing out from the back, De Bruyne set up City’s third as he flicked on Oleksandr Zinchenko’s pass to Silva, who curled his effort past Sanchez.

Man of the match – Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne made his 300th appearance for Manchester City against Brighton. Usually, players approaching such a milestone for one club will be winding down, allowing the younger guns to come through and drive the team forward. Not De Bruyne.

He is playing some of the best football of his career on current form. You could easily make the argument that he is currently the best midfielder on the planet, perhaps even the best player in the world. His performance against the Seagulls was another example of his greatness.

He has now been directly involved in six goals in his last five Premier League games. When Manchester City needed inspiration in what was looking like a nervy evening, De Bruyne took responsibility and found a change of gear needed to set up the all-important first goal.

For most of the match his direct running through the Brighton midfield was impossible to stop and on 53 minutes he left three Brighton defenders in his wake before a somewhat lucky ricochet sent through Riyad Mahrez who finished with the help of a deflection. You make your own luck though.

There was nothing fortuitous about the third goal that De Bruyne assisted with a drool-inducing flick to somehow find Bernardo Silva in space who finished impeccably from the edge of the box.

No player has ever won the PFA Player of the Year award three years on the spin but his end-of-season brilliance could turn the vote away from Mohamed Salah, who has been odds-on favourite for the award for many months now. It could be a close race. In this kind of mood, there aren’t many better in world football than the City star.

Lewis Jones

City maintain unbeaten home record over Brighton – Opta stats

  • Manchester City have never lost a home league match against Brighton and Hove Albion in 12 previous meetings (W10 D2), facing the Seagulls more often without losing at home than any other opponent in their league history.
  • Since they joined the Premier League for the 2017-18 season, Brighton have lost more league matches against Manchester City than any other opponent (nine defeats).
  • Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League, meaning they have now led the table for 137 of the last 138 days since December 4th.
  • Phil Foden made his 50th Premier League start for Manchester City – aged 21 years and 327 days, he became the youngest to start 50 games for City since Joe Hart in January 2009 (21y 287d).
  • Riyad Mahrez scored his 23rd goal in all competitions for Manchester City this season – among players for Premier League clubs, only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has more (30) in all competitions in 2021-22.

Guardiola: De Bruyne is incredibly special

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Pep Guardiola says his Man City side were ‘excellent from minute one’ in their 3-0 win over Brighton

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola:

“It was an incredibly good result against a team that beat Arsenal and Tottenham away. We didn’t concede a lot and we were incredibly aggressive. We showed ourself that we are a decent team when we do what we have to do.

“If we drop just two points Liverpool will be champions. And if we win all our games we will be champions. There are really tough fixtures ahead of us.

“When he [De Bruyne] is mentally ready and fit he is a player who is incredibly special. It was an incredible performance.

“Some people aren’t pleased when we lose but I am always pleased with my players. We have had six years together and the last five has been outstanding. Sometimes we can win, we can lose, but we give everything.”

Graham Potter: We didn’t hold possession well enough

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Graham Potter says he was proud of his Brighton team’s performance against City, but admits they weren’t good enough to get a result

Brighton head coach Graham Potter:

“We defended really well but we didn’t play as well as I think we can. Credit the opponent but we didn’t hold possession well enough. We didn’t manage to maintain any attacks or create any pressure.

“In the end, the quality of opponent means you are going to concede. I can’t fault my players but the better team won, clearly. There is no shame from that. We have to learn from it.”

What’s next?

Man City are back at home on Saturday when they host Watford at the Etihad; kick-off 3pm. Brighton will be in Premier League action on Sunday when they take on Southampton; kick-off 2pm.

Manchester City’s fixture schedule:

To be rearranged: Wolves (a) Premier League

April 23 – Watford (h) Premier League

April 26 – Real Madrid (h) Champions League SF first leg

April 30 – Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports

May 4 – Real Madrid (a) Champions League SF second leg

May 8 – Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports

May 15 – West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports

May 22 – Aston Villa (h) Premier League