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The Media Review: Manchester City

Albion's second defeat of the campaign saw them gain plaudits despite the 4-1 scoreline going against them.

By Nick Szczepanik • 24 October 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Graham Potter said post match that Albion's confidence hadn't taken a hit despite the loss to City.

Reports in the Sunday papers of Albion’s first-ever experience of a top-four battle revealed an interesting truth.

While the winning team may dominate the coverage to some extent, the losers also receive their fair share of the column inches – because otherwise the writers would be committing the unforgivable journalistic sin of failing to give due regard to a team in the Champions League places! 

So it was in the wake of Manchester City’s 4-1 victory at the Amex on Saturday evening. There was praise for the performance of the visitors, of course, but also recognition of the second-half fightback from Graham Potter’s men.

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Potter's Man City verdict

In The Observer, for example, Sachin Nakrani wrote that “as the final whistle blew, the majority of Brighton’s supporters stood and applauded their side, which to some extent was a curious sight given they had just lost 4-1. But this was a hammering in which the losing team deserved praise, having shown character and quality in the second half, dominating possession and territory and securing the goal their efforts deserved. Yet as the home fans cheered so did those in the away end having not just seen a win by Manchester City but another statement of intent.”

He continued, “Come half-time there was no escaping the sense that the hosts were in serious trouble. A first defeat in six games felt inevitable and a second 7-0 scoreline of the day was not out of the question.

“It was to their immense credit, then, that Brighton responded so well after the break. Having changed his side’s formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 at the start of the game, Potter changed the system again, this time to 4-3-1-2, and it formed the basis for a far more aggressive and assured display by the hosts. Pascal Gross and Leandro Trossard both forced Ederson into saves before the Brazilian was beaten on 81 minutes via a penalty he gave away after fouling Enock Mwepu, who impressed having come on as a 58th-minute substitute. Alexis Mac Allister, another substitute, converted the spot kick.

“’The team were amazing [in the second half],’ said Potter. ‘I was impressed with everyone.’

“Having been understandably subdued during the first half, the home spectators were now in raucous mood, clearly sensing their side could strike again. And there was another goal, but it belonged to City after Mahrez scored for a seventh time this season via a lashed close-range finish.” 

Jim White of the Sunday Telegraph also lauded Albion’s resurgence after the interval. “Manchester City cruise on, smooth, efficient, unbreached,” he wrote. “But they will rarely face an examination like the one they experienced in the second half at the Amex.

“Even as they led 3-0, Graham Potter’s Brighton tested everything about them, their game management, their resilience, their defensive capabilities. And their manager Pep Guardiola was delighted they passed the test. He recognised few teams in the Premier League could have emerged from this with three points.

"’Against another opponent the game would be over,’ said Guardiola, long an admirer of Potter, of the consequence of his side taking a sizable first half lead. ‘Against this team it is not over."

By Paul Hazlewood
Pep Guardiola chatted to former City and Albion manager Brian Horton prior to kick-off.

“Indeed, it was as well City had seized the initiative with a first-half performance of blistering invention. Guardiola had tasted rare defeat here in the final game of last season, and sent out his team with instruction to secure victory early.

“Brighton, though, are now too good a side to go down without a scrap. And throughout the second half they played with real grit. Lallana kept scrabbling, Pascal Gross drew a good save from Ederson, Leandro Trossard an even better one.

“How Brighton tried. With perhaps the most progressive pair of full-backs in the Premier League now in harness, they constantly pushed down the flanks, their refusal to bow to City's genius a mark of their calibre.

“However much Potter’s side pressed and fizzed, however much Lamptey danced and Cucurella overlapped, City appeared too shrewd to throw away dominance as they had last season.

By Paul Hazlewood
Tariq Lamptey's second half cameo gave Albion impetus down the right flank.

“They slowed the game down, they fell heavily under routine challenges, they passed sideways. You knew they were really under the cosh when Guardiola sent on Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne. 

“But then Mwepu was tripped in the box by Ederson, diving at his feet, and a penalty was awarded after a lengthy VAR investigation.

“The substitute Alexis Mac Allister scored it, the Amex was on its feet, electrified by the hint of a glorious turnaround. It wasn't to be. City are just too good, the substitute Riyad Mahrez's last minute fourth a mark of their excellence.”

Kieran Gill of the Mail on Sunday gave Albion their due even while praising City, writing that “it was a performance of complete control against a Brighton team who, until Saturday evening, had been Fort Knox-like.

“They made everything look easy in that first half, even though there’s no such thing against Potter’s organised Brighton side.

“After 10 minutes, everyone thought City had scored. Everyone except Lewis Dunk, that is.

“Jesus had beaten Sanchez and the ball was about to land in the empty net. With a bicycle kick on the goal-line, Dunk ensured it remained 0-0. You will not see a better clearance this campaign.

“In the corridors of the Amex Stadium as you walk towards the press box, there are pictures hanging on the walls. One of them is from Brighton’s victory over City last season, when they came from 2-0 down to win 3-2.

“They gave the comeback another go with an impressive second-half display, creating plenty of chances and pushing City back. Pascal Gross tested Ederson in the 55th minute and in the 60th, Brighton supporters hoped Cancelo would be dismissed for his late challenge on Lamptey. Only a yellow was shown.

“Ederson’s services were required again when Leandro Trossard looked to drill one in.

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PL Highlights: Albion 1 Man City 4

“In the 80th minute, Brighton had a penalty. Enock Mwepu had been felled by Ederson, who didn’t get the ball but did get the man. Mac Allister took it and, despite the City goalkeeper getting a hand to it as he dived to his left, it was 3-1.

“The start of a comeback or a consolation? The latter, it turned out. City made it 4-1 in stoppage time, with substitute Riyad Mahrez receiving a pass from Foden and scoring coolly.” 

Paul Rowan of the Sunday Times wrote that “City were hit be something of a second-half Brighton onslaught. Mwepu imposed himself in midfield and Lamptey stretched City with his pace down the flanks. The ball was worked nicely to Leandro Trossard, whose shot almost sneaked under Ederson, and Jakub Moder’s effort was then blocked by Kyle Walker, who high-fived Ruben Dias in a sign of how determined they were to keep a clean sheet. 

“They reckoned, however, without a rush of blood to the head by Ederson, who cleaned out Mwepu and mac Allister converted the penalty with nine minutes left. But the home side were exhausted by the time Mahrez scored City’s fourth.”  

In the Sun on Sunday, Tom Barclay referred back to the pre-match build-up. “Graham Potter probably needed a cuddle after this,” he wrote. “The Brighton boss had said before the game he hoped for a hug from Pep Guardiola following their mini bust-up in this fixture last season. But City showed no love to the Englishman’s side who were ripped apart in a blistering first 31 minutes.

“There was to be no repeat of the second-half turnaround from last term where ten-man City threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2. That day, Potter annoyed Guardiola with his reaction to the first of Brighton’s three goals, which the Albion boss admitted this week was “poor”.

“But Potter only had a late Alexis Mac Allister penalty to celebrate in a second half which, in fairness, his side dominated. Potter upped the ante by bringing on the jet-heeled Tariq Lamptey, who was welcomed by a crunching challenge from Joao Cancelo that earned the Portuguese a caution. 

“City showed a gritty side to their game for much of the second period as Albion finally turned up. Jesus epitomised City’s doggedness as at times he took up a right wing-back position and worked tirelessly to track Marc Cucurella.

“Brighton did grab a late consolation when sub Enock Mwepu was felled in the box by Ederson, who could not keep out Mac Allister’s spot-kick. It was no more than they deserved but City were still worthy winners thanks to their first-half blitz.

By Bennett Dean
Enock Mwepu's second half introduction proved fruitful for Albion, with the Zambia international brought down for Albion's penalty.

“Guardiola offered only a respectful handshake to Potter at full-time with the message clear: ruthless City mean business.”

Even City’s local paper, the Manchester Evening News, got in on the praise for Albion’s efforts, reporting Pep Guardiola’s assessment of Adam Lallana’s role: "When you don't have the ball, and they have the ball, they know exactly what they have to do. Do you know who the holding midfielder is for Brighton? Lallana. He is No.10 or whatever but they put him in holding midfield to make a good build-up and when you press Lallana he breaks, passes, breaks the line.

"Normally holding midfielders are big, strong ones but when one team uses this type of player for the process when you don't have the ball you suffer.

"The lesson of this game is we have to keep the ball as much as possible. And suffer when the opponents are good because when you go to play in Europe or at the top clubs in the Premier League, you have to defend for some time.” 

And long may Albion continue to be counted among those ‘top clubs’.