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Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Manchester City

Tough night for Albion at the end of a difficult spell of matches against the top teams.

By Nick Szczepanik • 12 July 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Aaron Mooy holds off the challenge of Aymeric Laporte

After the 5-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, it was hardly surprising to find that praise of the sort that reporters lavished on Albion’s performance against Liverpool was considerably fainter in the Sunday papers.

But there was, at least, some sympathy. Charlie Wyett of The Sun, for example, wrote that “for Brighton, this was an end to a nasty spell of home games inside 11 days with the matches against Manchester United and Liverpool also ending in defeats.

“But Brighton’s wins over Arsenal and Norwich - and a point at Leicester - means they will deservedly remain in the Premier League.

“Equally, this was the latest proof of the depressing gap between the top two in the Premier League and the rest. This was the 32nd time City have scored four goals or more in a Premier League game under Guardiola since the start of 2016-17 season.

“And even though there is nothing to play for over the next couple of weeks in the League, we will probably get at least one more City landslide before the season is done.”

Ian Hawkey of the Sunday Times thought that ‘”it keeps Brighton just a little nervous, although they probably have enough points to insure against fretting about relegation.”

01:41

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Bernardo's Man City reaction

Jonathan Liew was more baroque in the Observer, and one might venture to suggest that his intro will find its way into a certain corner of Private Eye. It read: “On the horizon where beauty and sadism meet, Manchester City tore Brighton to ornate, sumptuous shreds. It was luxurious, it was cruel, it was pointless and yet in a strange way seemed to mean everything. With nothing tangible to play for in the league, City simply played for the joy of playing, abetted by an opposition who were more than happy to let them do so.”

He continued: “Probably if not quite mathematically safe, Graham Potter’s side remain a gloriously flawed machine: polished and ambitious and yet still liable to keel over at the slightest breeze. Sort the defence out and there’s a potential top-10 side in there. But it’ll need a few new personnel and perhaps even a culture shift, for right now they are the sort of team you relish playing.

“Brighton’s expansive passing game makes them probably the best team to watch in the bottom half of the league, but it also leaves them badly stretched at the back: vulnerable to a single mistake or a single neat sequence. Brighton are nowhere near good enough to avoid the former, and City easily good enough to produce the latter.

“And when [Raheem] Sterling grabbed his second goal, a simple header from Mahrez’s unchallenged cross to cap a relentless start to the second half from City, even the cardboard cutouts at the Amex Stadium could have been forgiven for leaving early to beat the traffic.”

On the website that represents the remains of what was once The Independent, Ed Elliott of the Press Association wrote that “outclassed Albion repeatedly afforded their dominant visitors oceans of space and offered little resistance. The Seagulls remain eight points clear of the relegation zone following a second home defeat in just four days.

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Highlights: Albion 0 Man City 5

“Sterling made the breakthrough, expertly bending into the bottom right corner from 20 yards after he was allowed too much space by Martin Montoya when Gabriel Jesus nodded Mahrez's searching pass into his path.

“Brighton failed to muster an attempt on target in whole game and City doubled their advantage two minutes before the break.

“De Bruyne's outswinging corner from the right was helped on by Rodri, allowing Jesus a simple tap-in at the back post after he escaped compatriot Bernardo.

“Belgian De Bruyne then smacked the left post from a free-kick just after the restart, with Seagulls goalkeeper Mathew Ryan grateful to clutch Sterling's follow-up effort.

“Sterling quickly atoned for squandering that chance by heading in Mahrez's delightful cross from the left to put the result beyond doubt with still 37 minutes to go.

“City's play was verging on exhibition stuff at times and it appeared proceedings could become humiliating for the hosts when just three minutes later Portuguese Silva added another by finishing on the rebound after Ryan failed to hold his initial effort.

“The healthy lead allowed Guardiola to make a string of second-half changes, which perhaps halted their momentum and spared Brighton too much embarrassment.”

02:23

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Potter's Man City verdict

Chris Bevan of the BBC website wrote that “Brighton still need five more points from their remaining three games to be mathematically certain of safety, although their eight-point cushion over the bottom three currently appears healthy enough.

“It was just as well their survival was not reliant on them getting anything here, as City tore into them and met little resistance.

“The Seagulls went toe-to-toe with Liverpool in midweek and competed admirably with the new champions after conceding twice in the first 10 minutes, but this was a very different evening against the team the Reds have just deposed.

“There were no early mistakes that cost Graham Potter's side this time, but they had to battle all game to keep out a relentless City side and enjoyed few opportunities at the other end.

"’City were too good tonight,’ Potter said. ‘We were well beaten by the better team.

"’First half, we were in it a bit and had a couple of opportunities but they have got players that can hurt you everywhere.

"’We are disappointed with how we petered out in the second half but it's a big ask to play Liverpool and City in the space of four days’."

Sam Dean of the Sunday Telegraph noted that, “having lost three consecutive away league matches for the first time in his managerial career, Pep Guardiola was never in danger of that record extending to four,” adding that “it is not controversial to suggest that Brighton struggle” to contain top-four sides.

But perhaps the most interesting take on the occasion came from Riath Al-Samarrai in the Mail on Sunday. He referenced City’s appeal against a two-year ban from European club competitions following alleged breaches of club licensing and financial fair play regulations, the outcome of which will be known tomorrow.

“So much for keeping a low profile before court,” he wrote. “If conventional wisdoms suggest a quiet walk to the dock, what to make of a side assembled for half a billion quid turning up and dancing like this on their penultimate night of freedom?

By Paul Hazlewood
Players paid a silent tribute to Jack Charlton before kick off at the Amex.

“It was really quite something. Masterful, in fact. Though how far you go on that march depends on your point of view, and at this stage, all opinions on Manchester City rank a distant second to those held within the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“What they decide on Monday is everything. There are many who believe enough is enough, that playing fields need to be flatter, and this was a night for them to pipe up. 

“Just as it was when City slapped Newcastle for five the other night. Just as it has been on the 18 occasions, including this one, when in one competition or another they have won a game this season by three or more goals.

“Which isn’t to say City are the only side who have spent big, or to detract from performances like this. When they come, even against opposition that lack the intensity of a serious relegation fight, they are special. Astonishing, actually. Five goals, and it should have been more.

“Again, it is a matter of perspective – do you want to see masters at work? Or would you prefer a scenario where the haves do not have quite so much? Monday’s verdict, deciding on whether to uphold City’s Champions League ban, will have a huge bearing on how future discussions on the theme play out. 

“If it does go south for City, it is no great leap to assume they will find only limited pools of sympathy. Consider Guardiola’s back four here – he swapped in an entirely different defence to the one that kept a clean sheet against Newcastle and among them three of the men cost more than £50million each. He also brought in Sterling and Bernardo Silva in a rotation of six men that said everything about the depth money can buy.”

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