Brighton & Hove Albion hosted one of the hot favourites for the Premier League title; Manchester City, as the newly promoted side made their debut in the 5.30pm late kick-off.
The game was going to be an occasion regardless of the score line as The Seagulls decorated each of the 30,000 padded-seats with blue and white flags to celebrate their long-awaited return to the world’s biggest league. However, Manchester City arrived with intent as they started with a new strike partnership in Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus with £112million of summer signings lining up behind them to provide for them.
The game began with the home-side fully embracing the eagerness and excitement from the stands, as the whole-hearted early tackles got the fans almost standing on their seats but the composure on the big stage from City quickly corrected the script. De Bruyne and Silva displayed their class as they soaked up the atmosphere and calmly helped City to 80% possession in the first 20 minutes and more through-balls than a FIFA 17 controller stuck on ‘Y’.
Brighton were by no means unorganised in the first half but the skill and creativity of Manchester City kept the visitors firmly in their opponent’s half. It was Jesus who thought he’d gifted City the lead after a laser-pointed pass from De Bruyne however he was rightly adjudged to have hand-balled over the line. Shane Duffy then thought he’d broken the deadlock, this time for the Albion, after City’s debutant keeper Ederson flapped at a corner but escaped with the free shot fizzing past his right post much to Duffy’s anguish.
Once the second half kicked off on a golden Sussex sunset, it was clear that it would be very hard to contain the visitors flare. A dominant second half saw City end with almost 80% possession and their defence hold their line almost 10 yards into Brighton’s half.
With every chance denied, City were one step closer to capitalising. This persistence paid off on the 70th minute as a confident Aguero made it his 6th opening day goal in seven seasons with a neatly slotted shot in front of the 3,000 travelling fans. He had been a threat all game, acting more likely to score than to not since the first minute.
Only five minutes later Brighton-born defender Lewis Dunk saw himself the victim of an own goal after Fernandinho whipped in a vicious cross deserving of a goal, falling central of the 6-yard box. From a city perspective the goals were reward for their patient play, but this was a savage kick in the teeth for a home-side battling on their defensive line almost all game.
The result see’s Pep Guardiloa’s side move up to second (for what it’s worth this early on) but also shows Pep now has a team that have a started to mirror his philosophy of composure and patience in their play. Manchester City were held at a stalemate for 70 minutes against a side who cost less than their left-back, but they were confident that the way they were playing would seek reward.
As for Brighton, the match ended in a result which many would have predicted (some even guessed a much stronger score line for City) but no-one was quite sure how Brighton would compare in the top league. They haven’t by any means done themselves a disservice on their league debut and as the concourses were slowly vacated, the AMEX Stadium had a buzz of optimism in the air.*
*Just with a pinch of realism now too.
Written by Will Muir.