The media review: Manchester City

How the newspapers reported our 1-1 draw against the champions.

By Nick Szczepanik • 25 May 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Levi Colwill relished his battle with Erling Haaland.

What a way to end a home programme! The 1-1 draw against Manchester City brought down the curtain on a memorable season at the Amex in fine style.

Not only did Albion gain the single point technically required to clinch sixth place and a Europa League berth, but they also sent us home happy with a goal-of-the-season contender from Julio Enciso.

These days City have the gravity field of a small planet, dragging a plume of writers with them wherever they go, as Manchester United and Liverpool used to do.  So some names more familiar on northern beats made rare visits to the Amex press box for the visit of the champions.

Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail, for example, was in attendance and he wrote that “Pep Guardiola laughed and grinned his way through the latter stages of a barmy night, his nervousness and acceptance that this was not a game he could puppeteer a tribute to the guy in the opposite technical area.

“There is history to be made for Manchester City and Guardiola. The next fortnight is the biggest in English football for almost a quarter of a century. But for one night, the accolades were Roberto De Zerbi’s and Brighton’s. A best-ever finish, done with guts and panache.

“The Europa League anthem pumped out across the Amex Stadium after an evening very few will forget. A lengthy embrace by the two managers told all of what spellbinding artistry had been on show during an exhibition. ‘We deserve to play in the Europa League,’ Brighton’s boss said with understatement.


MA+ members & STH only - Log-in required

An existing MyAlbion+ membership or season ticket is needed to view this content. Please note that new memberships take 24 hours to be active to view, registering today for Luton Town match streaming will not be valid in time.

Bloom And De Zerbi discuss Europa League achievement

“Brighton provided evidence as to why they have upset traditionally big sides this year, Julio Enciso’s incredible equaliser a product of De Zerbi daringly splitting the centre halves and playing through City. Very few manage that.

“Guardiola may well have left this place wondering if, in hindsight, it will have proven a tougher assignment than at least one of the upcoming finals.

“The Italian has become one of the preeminent coaches across the continent and why has been obvious ever since taking over at Brighton - sixth place confirmed with a draw that halted City’s 12-match winning run, done with such an enjoyable and infectious way of playing.

“Jan Paul van Hecke, up against Erling Haaland on just his third league start, was asked to rampage between centre half and midfield early doors to unsettle the champions. Levi Colwill performed similar and it is rare for opposition to go at City with such vigour.”

Paul Hirst of The Times had also ventured south. He wrote that “during Pep Guardiola’s seven years in English football, few teams have been courageous enough to take the game to his Manchester City side. Many have stood back, invited City to come at them and hoped for a lucky escape or to hit them on the counterattack.

“Few teams, particularly outside the top four, have had the confidence, skill or energy to go toe to toe with City. Even when there is little riding on the match Guardiola demands a lot from his side. But Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton & Hove Albion can add their name to that short list after they gained a point that could have easily been three.

“Brighton’s energy, fluency and drive, particularly in the first half, impressed everyone at the Amex Stadium as the hosts gained the draw that guaranteed them Europa League football for the first time in their 122-year history.

“At times, the City supporters could not help but be impressed either. One away fan was clapping before Julio Enciso’s rasping 25-yard equaliser had struck the back of Stefan Ortega’s net.

“Erling Haaland, back in the starting XI after being benched for the win over Chelsea, should have given City an early lead. Phil Foden spun past two Brighton players and stood up a deep cross to the back post for Haaland, who somehow headed over from five yards.

“Then Brighton came to the party. For 20 minutes, they pegged City back, playing the enterprising attacking football that has won them so many admirers. Kaoru Mitoma and Facundo Buonanotte exchanged passes twice before the latter let fly with a shot that was blocked by Foden.

“Normally so calm at the back, City could not deal with Brighton’s high press. Stefan Ortega dallied and Moises Caicedo almost made him pay. When Ilkay Gundogan clipped Gilmour 25 yards out, it presented Brighton with another opportunity. Danny Welbeck sent a dipping shot over the wall that smacked the woodwork.

“When Jason Steele dived at Haaland’s feet to deny the Norwegian on a rare City attack, it looked like nothing would go their way, but they took the lead against the run of play in the 25th minute thanks to an act of selflessness from Haaland.

“He ran on to Gundogan’s through ball and eyed up the goal as Steele raced off his line. Haaland strode past the goalkeeper but his path to goal was not clear, so he squared to Foden, who squeezed the ball past the two defenders on the line.

“Brighton searched for an immediate equaliser. Welbeck flicked a corner to the back post where Mitoma fell to the turf and slid over the line in a front crawl motion. Brighton celebrated but VAR ruled the goal out as he had clearly carried the ball over the line in his arms.

“There was no doubt about the legitimacy of Brighton’s equaliser though. City’s defence pedalled backwards, inviting Enciso to shoot and he rifled an unstoppable shot into the top corner, prompting a roar from the home crowd.”


MA+ members & STH only - Log-in required

An existing MyAlbion+ membership or season ticket is needed to view this content. Please note that new memberships take 24 hours to be active to view, registering today for Luton Town match streaming will not be valid in time.

Extended PL Highlights: Albion 1 Man City 1

But there were also contributions from more regular Amex attendees. The i paper’s handsome and talented representative wrote that “Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola compared Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi to the head chef at a Michelin three-starred restaurant this week, and this match was a feast. Both teams went at each other for 90 minutes, and with two adventurous and innovative coaches in charge, perhaps we should have expected no less, but it was still exhilarating to watch.

“Brighton applauded champions City onto the Amex pitch but that was as far as any paying of respects went.  Needing one point to make absolutely sure of a place in the Europa League rather than the Europa Conference – although it was as near a certainty as you could get - Roberto De Zerbi’s team deservedly ended City’s run of 12 successive league victories. 

“Phil Foden gave City the lead, but Julio Enciso levelled for Brighton with a goal of the season contender that started with goalkeeper Jason Steele and ended in the top corner of City’s net.

“With Lewis Dunk, restored to the England squad yesterday four years after winning his only previous cap, benched after feeling a series of injuries, the home fans could have been forgiven for some jitters, but their team showed few signs of nerves.”

David Hytner of The Guardian was pleasantly surprised by both teams’ commitment. “Manchester City had already sewn up the Premier League title, their fifth in six seasons; a three-peat complete. They have a couple of finals coming up that you might have heard about. So, what was their motivation here?

“Brighton had confirmed their place in next season’s Europa League – unless you believed that a 17-goal swing in two defeats against City here and at Aston Villa on Sunday was plausible. They had an outside chance of overhauling Liverpool for fifth place, although that would not have brought any tangible reward. Same question. What was their motivation?

“The answer for City, perhaps, was to showcase their winning mentality, to maintain momentum for the historic challenge ahead. But, really, it boiled down to professional pride. Just as it did for Brighton, the desire to put on a show – even after all of the shows that both clubs have staged during seasons they would each describe as epic.


MA+ members & STH only - Log-in required

An existing MyAlbion+ membership or season ticket is needed to view this content. Please note that new memberships take 24 hours to be active to view, registering today for Luton Town match streaming will not be valid in time.

Van Hecke: I enjoyed the battle with Haaland!

“What a game this was, especially in the first half when Julio Enciso’s firecracker cancelled out Phil Foden’s opener for City. There was a moment in the 72nd minute when Pep Guardiola came onto the pitch to return the ball for a City free-kick with a sweeping left-footed pass, the years rolled back.

“Guardiola was all smiles then. It would be a different story on 79 minutes when Erling Haaland had a goal chalked off by the VAR for a shirt tug on Levi Colwill. When the replay was shown on the big screen, Guardiola would rage at the fourth official. He ended up with a yellow card. Guardiola is not used to results slipping from him.”

Andy Dillon of The Sun loved Enciso’s leveller. “Thank goodness there is still room left for a little one,” he wrote. “Having watched the monstrous shadow of Erling Haaland loom over football from day one this season, how reassuring that a player of more modest dimensions can still stand tall.

“Julio Enciso’s breathtaking goal was so good that even the travelling City fans standing directly behind the net that his shot almost burst had to applaud on instinct. They got the best view of anyone because the ball had rocketed past Stefan Ortega before City’s keeper even clapped eyes on it.

“Enciso is just 5ft 7in and built like a string bean. But he can’t half hit ‘em. His incredible 38th minute drive from 30 yards that lasered into the top corner is the second such goal this season. But it was even better than when he used his tiny right foot like a travel-sized tin opener against Chelsea’s defence to grab a win at Chelsea last month.

“This one was enough to earn Brighton a deserved point that makes sixth place a mathematical certainty regardless of Sunday’s result at Aston Villa. That in turn means Europa League football for Albion next season for the first time in their history and caps a season that in their terms is every bit as remarkable as the way City stayed the distance and overhauled Arsenal to win the league.

“Much of that is down to Haaland. A giant of a man and a terrifying prospect to deal with in most games with so much more to his game than sheer size. But for once he had to let someone else take the limelight. Even if his 80th minute goal had been allowed to stand - and it was a harsh VAR decision to rule it out for a foul - it was not in the same class as Enciso’s stunner.”

According to John Cross in The Mirror, “Pep Guardiola revealed his newly-crowned champions overcame huge hangovers after their title celebrations. Manchester City boss Guardiola left them to sweat out the booze in the sauna on Monday morning before they played their part in one of the best games of the season at Brighton.

“Brighton secured their place in next season’s Europa League with a wonder goal from Julio Enciso to give City another headache after their partying excesses. Guardiola said: ‘It was 40 hours after we drank all the alcohol in Manchester!’

“City definitely defied any weary legs and sore heads as they went toe-to-toe with Brighton in what has also become a love-in between the two managers. There is huge mutual respect. Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi has built something special at the Amex and led the club into Europe for the first time in their history.

“Both teams went hell for leather in what was a brilliant advert for the Premier League. It was fast, furious and unforgiving. It even ended with controversy as Guardiola was shown a yellow card for complaining after Erling Haaland had a late effort ruled out after a VAR check for a shirt pull on Brighton defender Levi Colwill.

“Brighton had 20 shots against City which was the most of any opponent against the champions this season as the previous best was 13. City have also got two finals next month with all eyes on the Treble but you would never have guessed it.”

Sam Dean of the Daily Telegraph wrote that “Manchester City supporters do not like to think of such things but a day will eventually come when Pep Guardiola no longer wants to be their manager. It is therefore the duty of the club’s executives to have a succession plan in mind and, as they watched this fabulously entertaining match of football, they will no doubt have taken note of the courage and class of Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton. 


MA+ members & STH only - Log-in required

An existing MyAlbion+ membership or season ticket is needed to view this content. Please note that new memberships take 24 hours to be active to view, registering today for Luton Town match streaming will not be valid in time.

De Zerbi: We've achieved an incredible target!

“De Zerbi is not going anywhere yet, not after leading this club into Europe for the first time in their history, but no one at Brighton expects him to be on the south coast in the long-term. This is a manager who is heading for the top of the game and, when the post-Guardiola future finally looms, City could do a lot worse than ask after the Italian’s number. If he has not already been snatched up by someone else, that is. 

“Within a few minutes of this meeting at the Amex Stadium, it became clear that it would be a chess match of the highest order. Bus parking is not allowed in this part of Brighton these days, and De Zerbi’s team charged at the champions with spirit and enthusiasm. For them, the best form of defence is always to attack, no matter the opponent.

“It was a different sort of challenge for City and, for long spells, they must have enjoyed it. At the final whistle the points were shared, bringing an end to their 12-match winning streak, and the result felt entirely fair. Phil Foden had struck first for the away side, before Julio Enciso launched one of the goals of the season into the top corner of City’s net.”

After reading that (and, to be fair, Sam’s appreciation of Roberto’s work since he arrived), it is no surprise that he was one of two Telegraph writers who picked our head coach as their manager of the season.

“The evolution of Brighton as a team under De Zerbi has been beyond the wildest expectations of their supporters. No manager in the league has squeezed more out of his resources than the Italian, who has taken a group of mid-ranking players [hang on, what about our World Cup winner?] and produced some of the most exciting, progressive and tactically advanced football in the league.

“Levi Colwill had never played in the Premier League before this season, and now looks like one of the best young defenders in the division. Kaoru Mitoma had not started a Premier League match before De Zerbi’s arrival, and is now one of the most exciting wingers in Europe.

“The likes of Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister, Lewis Dunk and Pascal Gross have all hit new levels of performance this season, and then there is the emergence — under De Zerbi’s careful guidance — of teenage striker Evan Ferguson.

“All of this is despite Brighton losing arguably their best player, Leandro Trossard, to Arsenal in January. It is a triumph of squad building and culture creating by the Brighton ownership and executives, yes. But the development of these individuals and the team’s performances on the pitch? That’s De Zerbi.”