Nick Szczepanik's press verdict: Manchester City

The big-name writers based in English football's second city were out in force at the Etihad Stadium to report on Albion's 1-0 defeat at the hands of Pep Guardiola's men on Wednesday.

By Nick Szczepanik • 14 January 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Graham Potter and his team impressed the media at the Etihad on Wednesday night.

As you would expect, they concentrated on Manchester City's victory and England's Phil Foden, the scorer of the only goal after 44 minutes. But there were generous words too for the performance of the men in yellow and blue – and the one in orange.

“It was a good job Foden impacted this game as he did,” wrote James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph, “because with City unable to get that second goal to kill it despite having good chances Brighton remained within touch of a point right until the death, even after Raheem Sterling had skied a penalty over the crossbar in stoppage.

“Watching Graham Potter's side move the ball around with a confidence and swagger you would not believe they are perched precariously above the relegation zone and they made City work extremely hard for their seventh consecutive win in all competitions and sixth clean sheet in the past eight league outings. “I thought our players were fantastic,” Potter said. “I thought they left everything on the pitch. They showed great personality.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Alexis Mac Allister was a creative force for Albion against Pep Guardiola's men.

Ducker added, “As uncowed as Brighton were, their effort typified by Alexis Mac Allister and league debutant Percy Tau, the blunter reality is that they failed to carve a chance of any real note despite flashing a few balls across City’s six-yard box, and there can be no greater compliment to Guardiola’s rearguard than that.”

Occasional crime novelist and permanent friend of this column Jamie Jackson of The Guardian wrote that “as Brighton had seriously pressed as the final whistle approached, City ended relieved to collect a vital three points.

“Graham Potter had arranged his team in a 4-3-1-2 that featured Leandro Trossard and Percy Tau at the tip. The problem it had was the regular one when facing City: how to use the little possession they would be allowed to hurt them. They would have enough chances to hurt City but could not execute them.

“Trossard was granted time to fashion a curler that narrowly missed Ederson's left post. It was a flash of the threat Potter's side posed. There was another when Trossard skated along a left channel before John Stones dispossessed him and killed the danger.

By Paul Hazlewood
Davy Propper started his second Premier League match of the season at the Etihad.

“Brighton saw a Davy Propper effort hit direct at Ederson. City shrugged this off and found a higher gear but remained profligate. Mahrez missed the target, Gundogan saw a shot saved, and Bernardo Silva hit the left post. Next, Propper's skid along the turf to connect with a Bernardo ball only barely missed in another warning that Brighton would not be bowed.”

Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail was particularly impressed by Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez: “Phil Foden was the only player who managed to beat Brighton's outstanding Spanish goalkeeper Robert Sanchez – Raheem Sterling missing a penalty in added time - and Graham Potter's team were the one asking the questions for much of the closing moments.

“Only recently turned 23, Sanchez looks a prospect. In the first half he saved well from De Bruyne in two one-on-one situations and in the second half he was even busier. He seems to benefit from a good understanding of positioning and has hands strong enough to deflect the ball away to safe distances. 

“On occasion he had to be a little fortunate, but who doesn't when they come to the Etihad? Bernardo Silva struck the angle of post and bar around the hour mark and in added time Sanchez brought down De Bruyne – his only mistake of the night – only for Sterling to hoof a most miserable penalty over the top. 

By Paul Hazlewood
Robert Sanchez pulled off some good saves at the Etihad, but didn't have to do much for Raheem Sterling's penalty miss.

“If all this makes it sound like a siege, it wasn't. Brighton are a brave side under Potter and they were not afraid to advance forward here. In players such as Leandro Trossard, new South African signing Percy Tau and the advancing wing-back Bernardo, they had impressive performers of their own.

“But their problem under the likeable Potter – both this season and last – is that they simply don't score enough goals. Tau has been bought to help with that but nevertheless Brighton have drawn more Premier League games than anyone – eight – and it is hurting them. Here, despite some good periods of impression, they didn't really cause City goalkeeper Ederson to make a difficult save.”

Martin Blackburn, who was surely born to be The Sun's man in the North West, wrote that the match could turn out to be a huge moment in City's season as they were given a big test here by Graham Potter's confident side.

“The Etihad boss had said before the game how highly he rates the Seagulls and no wonder on this evidence. Albion had won only one of their last 15 Premier League matches and none of the last eight - so this looked a home banker on paper. Yet to Potter's credit he decided to take the game to City early on – playing with three forwards to ask a few questions.

“It seemed to unsettle the home side – who were again playing without a recognised centre forward – in the early stages. City gradually got into their stride though as Ilkay Gundogan played a neat one two to put De Bruyne through but Robert Sanchez got down smartly to save.

By Paul Hazlewood
John Stones puts in an excellent challenge to stop Neal Maupay bursting through on goal.

“But the Seagulls were happy to play City at their own game and were very much still in it. Only a superbly timed last-ditch tackle by John Stones denied Neal Maupay as he burst through on goal – while a flurry of late corners came to nothing.”

So it was close, and could have finished all square, as the Manchester Evening News admitted that Foden's strike might have been disallowed. “There was some debate post-match as to whether City defender Ruben Dias had fouled Brighton's Percy Tau in the build-up to Foden's decisive goal,” wrote Chris Watson.

“Former Premier League referee Peter Walton believes it was a foul - but said the VAR (video assistant referee) was correct not to advise referee Darren England to rule the goal out, as he did not see it as a clear and obvious error.”

“Part of the VAR's remit is to make sure there's nothing happening prior to the goal in what they call the attacking phase of play,” Walton told BT Sport. “As we can see with Dias sliding in with Tau, yes, there is contact with Tau and does he get the ball? It's a very subjective play.”

By Paul Hazlewood
There were question marks at the end of the game as to whether or not there was a foul on Percy Tau in the build up to City's goal.

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