Manchester City put their away day troubles behind them with a comprehensive 5-0 win over Brighton at the Amex Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side had lost three of their last four Premier League games on the road, but were rarely troubled against an out-of-sorts Seagulls side who were never really at the races.
Raheem Sterling was the main beneficiary for City, picking up a hat-trick to take his season’s goal tally to 27 in all competitions – his best ever return. Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva were also on the scoresheet as the away side breezed to victory down on the south coast.
Graham Potter’s first season in charge has brought about a number of fundamental changes at Brighton, namely in the club’s playing style.
Keen to build from the back, the Seagulls have been unwilling to abandon their ball playing principles regardless of their opponent and, at times, they have looked outclassed.
Against City, that’s exactly what they were – as Pep Guardiola’s side popped the ball around pace, seamlessly transitioning from defence into attack at breathtaking speed. The quality of Sterling, Mahrez and Silva was clear for all to see, but Kevin De Bruyne’s dictation of play meant Brighton saw very little of the ball.
A more direct approach would perhaps have put City’s defence under more pressure, which may not have been a bad idea given their recent form on the road. But Potter was keen to stick to his guns, and in the long run, he may reap the benefits.
Starting XI: Ryan (5), Montoya (5), Webster (5), Dunk (6), Bernardo (5), Mooy (6)*, Propper (6), Bissouma (6), Trossard (6), Connolly (6), Groß (6)
Substitutes: Lamptey (6), Stephens (6), Maupay (5), Jahanbakhsh (6)
Pep Guardiola will be so frustrated after watching his team tonight. Not frustrated because of this performance – City were absolutely magnificent – but because they have looked so frail at times this season for no apparent reason.
On this form, City are the best team in the league. Yes, Liverpool have blown the Premier League away this season, but even they would be the first admit to that they haven’t torn apart teams like they would want to.
Here, City were not only in complete control, they could – and probably should – have scored more than the five that they netted. This game was like a pre-season friendly at times, as Guardiola’s men dominated the ball and effortless moved Brighton around the pitch.
Pockets of space were exploited brilliantly, and it all looked so effortless and easy. A performance that shows City are far from done under Guardiola.
Starting XI: Ederson (7), Walker (7), García (7), Laporte (7), Mendy (7), De Bruyne (8), Rodri (7), Bernardo Silva (8), Mahrez (8), Sterling (9)*, Jesus (8)
Substitutes: Foden (7), Zinchenko (6), D Silva (7), Fernandinho (6), Stones (6)
The influence that Pep Guardiola has had on the career of Raheem Sterling really can’t be understated.
A player filled with talent, Sterling was often unable to channel his ability into producing an end product, spurning opportunities that came his way and occasionally failing to read the pattern of play.
Now, he’s a world-class winger, capable of scoring all different kinds of goals. Tonight, he curled home a wonderful effort from outside the box, glanced home a neat header into the corner and then scored without even knowing anything about it.
When your luck’s in, your luck’s in – but Sterling’s performance was anything but lucky.
Brighton are not mathematically safe from relegation – yet – so will hope to tie up any loose ends when they take on Southampton at St Mary’s.
Manchester City return to home comforts next time out, facing another side staring down the relegation battle, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.