Brighton officially secure Europa League football for next season

Brighton 1-1 Man City: Julio Enciso’s 25-yard STUNNER earns Seagulls the point they needed to qualify for Europa League as champions’ winning run is ended after Phil Foden opener

  • Manchester City were held to a 1-1 draw against Brighton on Wednesday night
  • Phil Foden, 22, opened the scoring for Man City in the 25th minute of the game
  • Enciso scored a rocket from 25 yards out to get Brighton back into the game 

As is his want and occasional tendency, Pep Guardiola opened a can of worms in the hours before Manchester City made their way down here to the growing beat of jungle drums.

Much of the discourse since Sunday, the fifth coronation in six years for a super team – one of the greatest we have ever seen – has centred on those Premier League charges for alleged financial breaches rather than the stuff on the grass and that understandably irks Guardiola.

So that is why City’s manager chose to unload on the time this is all taking. Give us a clue is the synopsis. Guilty or not, he wants a quick resolution to get on with the football. ‘Let’s go, 24 hours,’ he said, hoping for certainty over whispering, believing that his employers will clear their names.

Unfortunately, law does not work like that; both City sympathisers and an army of detractors – a list that includes boardrooms of several rival clubs – lie in a wasteland of unknown, foes fighting over scraps of narrative.

Meanwhile, the team continue to do what they do, the fans outside the Amex Stadium merrily singing about ‘three in a row’ and the players later accepting another guard of honour.

Brighton have secured Europa League football for next season after holding City to a draw

The Premier League champions looked a little sluggish after their title winning celebrations 

Phil Foden (right) opened the scoring for Manchester City in the 25th minute of the game

Immediately after Guardiola’s remarks, there were calls that actually, it was City’s lawyers who slowed this all down and, as the charges state, ‘obstructed’ the investigation. City’s legal side might well argue that they did not fancy handing over intellectual property to the league not deemed entirely relevant. But we are guessing. Everybody is guessing.

Nothing was left to the imagination on the south coast last night though. A game of sensational artistry, Brighton providing evidence as to why they have upset many traditionally big sides this year, Julio Enciso’s incredible equaliser a product of Roberto De Zerbi daringly splitting the centre halves and playing through City. Very few manage that.

A yellow carded 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. History awaits and the guy inside the other technical area is creating some of his own too.

De Zerbi is becoming one the preeminent coaches across the continent and why has been obvious ever since taking over at Brighton – European football already secured and doing so with such and enjoyable and infectious way of playing.


Brighton starting XI: Steele, Colwill, Gross, Welbeck, Enciso, Mitoma, Caicedo, Gilmour, Van Hecke, Estupinan, Buonanotte.

Substitutes: McGill, Webster, Dunk, Mac Allister, Undav, Ayari, Ferguson, Veltman, Peupion.

Manchester City starting XI: Ortega Moreno, Walker, Stones, Rodrigo, Lewis, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Foden, Haaland.

Substitutes: Ederson, Phillips, Alvarez, Gomez, Charles, O’Reilly, Palmer, Robertson, Knight

The Italian asked Jan Paul van Hecke, against Erling Haaland on just his third league start, 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.

De Zerbi wanted to mess with Guardiola’s rhythm and his team are so equipped to do so. An energy bubbled here, Brighton partying and City trying to slow it all down.

So slow, in fact, that Guardiola rebuked Ilkay Gundogan, demanding the captain to raise his levels as the Seagulls flew into challenges and turned their visitors over.

Danny Welbeck clattered the bar from a 25-yard freekick, conceded by Gundogan, and earlier found Phil Foden blocking him off when clean through. 

Stefan Ortega, the stand-in goalkeeper for rested Ederson, was unnerved in possession with a relentless press and Kaoru Mitoma saw a goal disallowed for handball from a corner. An offence so obvious that a rugby TMO will have found that Mitoma grounded the ball before the try-line.

Before that, Foden had City ahead after 25 minutes. Haaland had missed a relative sitter, heading over, early doors and then ran into Jason Steele when clear of the last man. But as he looked ready to fluff another chance, the Norwegian nudged to Foden and he fumbled beyond a helpless Van Hecke. City had caught out Brighton’s high line with one Riyad Mahrez pass.

Enciso (above) scored an absolute rocket from 25 yards out to get Brighton back into the game

Erling Haaland scored for Manchester City in the second half but his goal was chalked off 

VAR reviewed the goal and disallowed it after claiming Haaland pulled the shirt of Colwill

City boss Pep Guardiola was awarded a yellow card after disputing Haaland’s disallowed goal 

Yet Albion were in this, the better side for large spells, and the roaming Facundo Buonanotte thought he was finding a way past Ortega only for Enciso to finish that particular job six minutes before the break. A goal so good that City fans behind Ortega were clapping before ball struck netting, Enciso collecting possession from 30 yards and, as John Stones backpedalled slightly, hit from out to in with mesmeric fade.

Welbeck had it in the net, too, but adjudged to have been marginally offside. Guardiola was the one pleading for everything to be slowed now. Foden then headed over from six yards seconds later; it was that sort of night. One Brighton fan, heading up for a pint, screamed ‘bellissimo, bellissimo’.

An apt description for a captivating watch, one which saw City leave several first-teamers back home, started a midfielder at the back and seemed to be sporting fairly weary limbs. Sunday’s title party at Mnky Hse went on late, in fairness. De Zerbi fancied this, introducing Evan Ferguson and Alexis Mac Allister after half-time for impetus, the latter likely a goodbye to these home fans before moving on.

Pervis Estupinan lined one up and the Amex thought that was it, with 14 minutes remaining, only for him to whistle inches by the post. So close that Guardiola, on his knees, mischievously smirked at the opposing bench. No smiling when Haaland’s winner was chalked off for pulling Colwill’s shirt though.

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