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Man City battle past spirited Brighton

Man City battle past spirited Brighton

Premier League title favourites Manchester City had to wait to break down promoted Brighton before two late goals gave them victory on the south coast.

The Seagulls, back in the top flight after a 34-year absence, had showed impressive organisation and resolve to keep City at bay until David Silva played in Sergio Aguero to fire home after 70 minutes.

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Lewis Dunk headed Fernandinho’s cross into his own net five minutes later to make sure of the points for Pep Guardiola’s new-look side.

Brighton, who had just 22% possession, spent most of the game defending in their own half but had chances with the score at 0-0.

Shane Duffy had a shot deflected just wide and, after City’s new £35m goalkeeper Ederson flapped at the resulting corner, Dunk had two shots blocked in quick succession.

That was as much of a test as City’s backline got, and they never looked in serious danger of suffering an opening weekend upset in the manner of some of their title rivals.

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This was was more of a test of whether Guardiola’s rebooted team could break down a massed defence. They did not do it enough in his first season at City but at the Amex Stadium, eventually, they found a way through.

New personnel meant a change to a 3-1-4-2 formation for Guardiola, something he tried during his side’s recent tour of the United States.

It was hard to gauge an accurate impression of City’s new shape because Brighton sat so deep in their own half and saw so little of the ball.

Even so, the signs are that City are still adjusting to it themselves.

Kyle Walker and Danilo, signed for a combined £68m over the summer, did exactly what they were supposed to do as wing-backs – constantly getting forward and overlapping down the outside.

All too often, though, their runs were ignored and City played the ball inside, where space was limited, before attacks broke down.

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Width was the way forward for City, however, and moves along the right flank provided both their goals.

Dale Stephens’ mistake allowed Walker to start the attack that led to Aguero scoring, while Fernandinho provided the cross that Dunk put into his own net.

Cautious Brighton unable to shine

A rousing atmosphere greeted the Brighton players at a packed stadium but Chris Hughton’s side, which included five new signings, had little opportunity to show what they could do.

It was just their discipline and work-rate on show for the first hour or so, when they often had 10 men behind the ball.

Up front, Tomer Hemed and Pascal Gross had a thankless task of chasing and harrying, without a sight of goal.

That second-half spell, when City wobbled but held out under pressure, brought an amazing response from the home fans and perhaps demonstrated what might have been possible had Brighton showed more ambition on their big day against a side playing a new system.

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Chris Hughton’s cautious approach came within 20 minutes of earning a point against a team with much greater talent and resources but could not quite get the job done – in the end it was City who did that.

 

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