- Five debutants for the Albion
- A record crowd of 30,415 at the Amex
- City win with two goals in the final 20 minutes
- Lewis Dunk scores an unfortunate own goal
It was spirited, it was gallant and it was all to play for until the closing stages of the game, but Brighton & Hove Albion’s Premier League debut ended in defeat at the hands of Manchester City.
Pitted against the title favourites, who boast an array of world-class talent, it says much for the Seagulls’ endeavour that it took 70 minutes for the visitors to break the deadlock through Sergio Aguero, with a Lewis Dunk own goal putting the game out of reach soon after.
The pre-game statistics certainly made for interesting reading; the City starting line-up boasting 1,199 Premier League games between them, the Albion just seven.
It really was a case of Chris Hughton’s men entering the unknown against a side who lived up to their pre-match billing, dominating possession and dictating the pace of the game.
Inevitably, they created the first chance when Kyle Walker got to the byline, but his low cross was, uncharacteristically, miscued by Aguero. Gabriel Jesus also had joy down the right flank moments later, but Shane Duffy made a vital interception.
Maty Ryan would have gained confidence having held on to a dipping Kevin de Bruyne free-kick, but with 77 per cent of the possession in the opening quarter of an hour, the tone was set: defence versus attack, and a test of how the Albion rearguard could handle whatever came their way.
Chris Hughton was forced into a change in the 24th minute when Izzy Brown suffered a hamstring injury - to be replaced by Jamie Murphy - and although it was frustrating to see the Chelsea loanee leave the pitch after his promising start, it gave everyone in blue and white a chance to catch their breath.
The pattern of play was restored soon after, however, and the ball was in the back of the Albion net on 27 minutes when Gabriel Jesus got in behind Lewis Dunk, only to use his hand to guide the ball past the Ryan. A collision with the Albion keeper left the Brazilian needing attention and to rub further salt into the wounds, he was cautioned by referee Michael Oliver for his actions.
Jesus then had a guilt-edged chance to break the deadlock on 33 minutes when he connected with Aguero’s dinked cross, but Ryan pulled off a superb reflex save and the City striker then hit his rebound against the post.
Yet Albion stood strong, stayed organised, and with Solly March willing to carry the ball from deep and Dale Stephens’ searching balls looking to hit the pace of runners Pascal Gross and Murphy, the game was scoreless at the break.
Duffy, alongside Dunk, had a heroic opening half but an under-hit backpass by the Irishman shortly after the break let in Aguero, only for the City striker to screw his effort wide with just Ryan to beat.
Albion immediately broke forward and a superb, pin-point cross from Markus Suttner was met by Davy Propper, but Danilo sent the ball out for a corner. The resulting centre ended with Duffy’s shot on the turn deflecting away for a corner, while Dunk’s low effort skimmed narrowly wide after Ederson had flapped at another ball into his six-yard box.
City had appeals for a penalty waved away when De Bruyne’s shot struck the arm of Dunk; but the visitors were all smiles in the 70th minute when a sweeping move involving the Belgian and David Silva saw the ball fall into the path of Aguero, who swept home from close range.
It was two soon after when Fernandinho crossed from the right for Jesus, only for Dunk to unfortunately steer his header past Ryan. It effectively ended the game as a contest but Albion would have taken plenty from the 90 minutes; they were in the game for long periods and will head to Leicester next weekend with plenty of heart.
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