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Premier League Match Report & Player Ratings | Brighton secure historic European qualification after 1-1 draw with Manchester City

Julio Enciso’s wonder strike cancelled out Phil Foden’s match opener during a highly-entertaining ninety minutes at the AMEX that ended in fairytale fashion for the south-coast club

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Match Report

Brighton’s dream of playing on European nights for the first time in club history was confirmed tonight after a 1-1 draw against Premier League champions Manchester City across what was another fantastic performance against one of the big six.

What Robert De Zerbi has achieved since coming in for now-former Chelsea boss Graham Potter has been nothing short of spectacular, but it could have all been for nothing tonight if Brighton did not manage at least a point against Pep Guardiola’s supercharged City side who have just confirmed their fifth league win in the last six seasons.

City’s unmatched quality nearly paid dividends inside six minutes when Erling Haaland was found in the area by Phil Foden before the Norwegian hitman rose highest to dispatch his header toward goal, but he could only loft his effort over Jason Steele’s bar.

De Zerbi’s men, who came into proceedings needing a point to guarantee Europa League football next season, had tackled the Premier League champions the best way they knew how; by remaining true to their process under the Italian. Danny Welbeck was presented with a solid chance just minutes after Haaland when Julio Enciso slipped him through on goal from an acute angle before his effort was blocked before Stefan Ortega had a chance to parry away.

Welbeck was the center of attention when he nearly beat Ortega in the 20th minute with a well-truck free kick from 20 yards out which flew past the German but could only crash off the bar. Alarm bells were sounding on an evening in the south cast where City had nothing to play for, but the champions had another big chance in the aftermath of Welbeck’s effort when Haaland was put through on goal only for a heavy touch to strip him of a chance to round Steele.

Phil Foden broke the deadlock twenty-five minutes in, however, when the England international scored his 5th goal in five meetings against the seagulls after Haaland turned provider to square to the academy product who slotted home despite Jan Paul van Heck’s attempt to clear off the line.

Brighton finally drew level through Enciso with a smashing effort in the 38th minute from nearly 30 yards out that left Ortega with no chance after the Paraguayan youngster was found in acres of space in the wake of Levi Colwill’s driving run. It was a goal they no doubt deserved and De Zerbi’s outfit kept stretching City while looking for the go-ahead strike before the half-time interval.

Foden had one last chance before the half to restore City’s lead when he was found in space at the back post but his header back across goal could only sail just over the bar, with both sides heading into the half-time interval locked at a goal apiece.

Two changes were instituted by both De Zerbi and Guardiola before the 60th minute given the frantic nature of some passages of play across a match that had the feel of a cup final, with Brighton remaining on equal footing with the Spaniard’s troops.

Brighton continued to knock on the door and once again so nearly found another goal on the night when Pervis Estupiñan unleashed a well-struck half-volley that sailed just wide of Ortega’s goal, but City, as resilient as they have proven to be, almost had a second of their own after Haaland nodded home past Steele before VAR once again intervened and judged the Norwegian to have pulled down Colwill just before getting on the end of service.

The final phase of play continued to feature sparring from both ends but as referee Simon Hooper blew for full-time, raucous celebrations took over at the AMEX on a night where Brighton made history with a manager who is now viewed as one of the top managerial minds in Europe. Though their story may look very different next season as stars the likes of Caicedo and Mac Allister are likely off to bigger fish, what the club has managed to achieve deserves the utmost credit an then some.

As for City, there were both positives and negatives on a night where Guardiola viewed the performance as a litmus test for upcoming cup finals against Manchester United and Inter Milan. If City is to achieve a treble this season, those lessons will need to be taken on board.

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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