45 min Lots of City possession in the last few minutes of the half, but nothing for Brighton/Liverpool to worry about. While there’s only one goal in it, Pep Guardiola won’t be able to sit still.
42 min Mahrez’s shot from a tight angle, which I think was a mis-hit cross, is patted down at the near post by Ryan.
42 min Obligatory Clockwise clip for Liverpool supporters.
41 min This is City’s best spell, by quite a distance, and they have a chance to put Brighton away before half-time. Sterling’s low cross from the left of the area is kicked away inside the six-yard box by Bernardo.
39 min City are now playing the formation we expected, with Sterling left, Mahrez right and Bernardo Silva in midfield. And, hey presto, they look much better.
Such a simple goal. Mahrez curled the corner to the far post, where Laporte lost Murray with surprising ease and planted a downward header into the corner from six yards.
GOAL! Brighton 1-2 Manchester City (Laporte 38)
Aymeric Laporte heads City into the lead!
37 min: Good save by Ryan! Murray’s poor pass went straight to David Silva on the edge of the D. He slid it to the right for Mahrez, who beat Bernardo with a stepover and flashed a shot from a tight angle that was beaten behind by Murray. But from the corner…
36 min Brighton do look quite dangerous on the counter-attack, particularly Knockaert. He’s fouled by Aguero just inside the City half, which allows Brighton to send the big men forward. Gross’s cross is met by Duffy on the edge of the area, and his header loops slowly onto the roof of the net. Ederson has it covered.
34 min Sterling and Mahrez have swapped positions, so Sterling is now on the left and Mahrez is playing as the right-sided central midfielder.
32 min Brighton are defending desperately, as if survival depends on it. Bernardo Silva’s deflected shot flies across the box before being kicked away by Bruno.
30 min: Good save from Ryan! Another chance for City, who have been much better since going behind. Zinchenko’s fast cross clears everyone in the middle and reaches Bernardo Silva beyond the far post. His stooping header is too close to Ryan, who scrambles across his line to save.
It was a clinical finish. Laporte slid a short pass into the area towards David Silva. He flicked it classily behind the defence for Aguero, who drove it through the legs of Ryan with his left foot. At first it looked like he was offside; replays showed Bernardo was playing him on.
GOAL! Brighton 1-1 Manchester City (Aguero 28)
Sergio Aguero equalises straight away!
Oh my goodness. It was a superb corner from Gross, curled at pace to the near post, where Murray got in front of the flailing Ederson to head into the net from two yards. He took a smack in the face from from Ederson, about which he will not give a single stuff.
26 min Brighton win a corner on the left. They are always dangerous from set pieces, particularly with Duffy and Dunk…
24 min If if if if if this goes wrong, Pep Guardiola will be slaughtered for his tinkering, just as he was when they lost to Spurs in the Champions League quarter-final. He can’t help himself sometimes.
23 min David Silva angles a nice pass to the overlapping Mahrez, whose fierce cross is palmed away the diving Ryan. That was better from City.
21 min “Afternoon Rob, and thanks to you and all MBMers at the Guardian and on this side for another great season,” says Simon McMahon. “May the best team win today blah blah blah. Now, imagine Cantona and Maradona on a panel show discussing the press. The pair of them together would make Pochettino’s Wednesday night performance look positively stoic.”
Imagine them on Sunday Supplement, Diego on the way down after a busy night. And yes, thanks to all of you for your company and emails throughout the season. It’s been digital.
20 min Walker’s deflected shot loops up in the air and is dropped by Ryan. Happily for him, and millions of Liverpool fans, it falls kindly for Gross to clear.
19 min Sterling slips past Bernardo and really smashes a cross that is palmed away by Ryan. Then Gundogan’s shot from 25 yards is blocked by a stretching defender.
18 min Liverpool have taken the lead at home to Wolves thanks to Sadio Mane. As things stand, I won’t be going online for the next month.
17 min Actually, City are playing their usual 4-1-2-3, but with Sterling as a slightly advanced central midfielder. It’s a bit of a strange set-up, and so far it hasn’t really worked. I’ve never really liked Mahrez on the left, or Sterling in the centre.
16 min “Rob, I’m struggling,” says Matt Dony. “It’s been a long season. I’m watching the Liverpool game (naturally), and relying on your good self for updates on the other lot. When City inevitably score (probably through a Kyle Walker screamer or some other such nonsense), can you break it to me gently? Appreciated.”
I could drop the exclamation mark? And the capital letters? goal. brighton 0-1 manchester city, that kind of thing?
15 min Mahrez’s shot from 25 yards takes a deflection and dribbles through to Ryan.
12 min Sterling’s cross skims off the head of the leaping Aguero on the six-yard line, allowing Bong to clear. City haven’t started well, Bernardo Silva excepted.
11 min I thought Manchester City would win this game comfortably. After the first 10 minutes, I’m not so sure. Brighton are really up for this.
10 min Bernardo Silva has started excellently. He slides a crisp pass into Aguero on the edge of the area; Aguero gets the ball out of his feet and smacks a shot that is blocked by Duffy (I think).
9 min Brighton are looking pretty dangerous on the counter-attack. Knockaert drives a delicious low pass across the field to Jahanabakhsh, who cuts inside on his right foot and smacks a wobbling shot that flies just wide of the near post. It brushed the side netting on its way through, and had it been on target Emerson would not have got there.
7 min Kyle Walker’s every touch is being booed, presumably because of his contretemps with Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the FA Cup semi-final.
6 min City would give so much for an early goal. Most of their recent games have been 0-0 at half-time, which is not conducive to a resting heart rate for all those City fans watching the match.
5 min Brighton win their first corner. It’s half cleared to Knockaert, whose cross is headed a few yards wide by Murray. He was offside anyway.
4 min Bernardo Silva steals the ball off Bissouma and slaloms thrillingly through the defence, only to be crowded out as he’s about to shoot. At first I thought it might have been a foul but replays suggest Bissouma recovered to make a fine tackle.
4 min Gundogan cracks a shot from distance that is blocked on the edge of the area by Kayal. It’s all City.
3 min Not much to report so far. The Brighton fans are up for the game, so there’s a cracking atmosphere.
2 min City’s tactics aren’t quite as expected. They are playing a 4-2-3-1, with Bernardo Silva on the right, Mahrez on the left and Sterling behind Aguero.
1 min Peep peep! Brighton kick off from left to right. They are in blue and white stripes. City are sporting their away kit. Drawing inspiration from a key moment in the Club’s history, the 2018/19 away kit features a dark blue shirt with field blue and luminous yellow pin stripes down the front and back, alongside dark blue shorts. Luminous volt coloured socks with dark blue band around the shin complete a fresh and modern looking kit for the League champions.
The players emerge from the tunnel on a pleasant, sunny afternoon in Brighton. It’s time for business. If you’re don’t believe in blogogamy, these are the links for you.
In an unrelated development, this film on the greatest GOAT of all time looks entirely wonderful.
“Good day Rob,” says Duncan Edwards. “Pep might have relaxed his team by taking them up the road to Eastbourne. There’s a nice cliff top memorial to the very young pilots who sacrificed their lives in the Battle of Britain. And they could have enjoyed a pint in the village where Sherlock Holmes retired to keep bees. Not even Holmes could deduce why Mahrez is in. Presumably it’s to provide crosses for Aguero to get his head on haha.”
He hasn’t been that bad. Has he? Pep (it’s okay, we’re friends) has been unhappy with Leroy Sane in recent weeks so I suppose it’s not that surprising that he’s picked Mahrez. If Fernandinho and/or De Bruyne were fit to start I’m sure they would be in midfield, with Bernardo Silva on the right.
“Thank you for unearthing that Cantona jewel from the vaults of French TV,” says Charles Antaki. “I rather think it wasn’t aired, or airable, here. It is vanishingly unlikely that Kompany would be quite so forthright about what he would do to journalists’ backsides, or that he would argue that ‘unforgivable’ was conceptually distinct from ‘indefensible’ on the grounds, in part, that the Pope wears a Rolex. I think I’ve now had a satisfactory afternoon’s entertainment, wherever happens in the football.”
City could become the first team to retain the title since Manchester United a decade ago. If they manage that, they’ll be one game away from becoming the first English team ever to do the domestic treble.
Here’s Pep Guardiola “One more game. We will try to do our best, and the players will decide what we deserve. We are here to try to win the title. [Why did you pick Riyad Mahrez, Pep?] His quality, his personality, his lack of fear. We know Brighton will defend deep so we will need quality in small spaces, and he has that. I don’t know, honestly, what is going to happen.”
“I expect my Seagulls to go 2-0 down, then a hat trick from Bruno in the second half,” says Paul Thompson. “Sorry City, it’s just the way things are done at the moment.”
“Afternoon Rob,” says Nick Parish. “The title race this slightly puts me in mind of is the 1996 run-in, when Manchester United put aside the 9-0 wins and started winning 1-0 (Cantona, 76) seemingly every game. City are doing the same thing. Is Vincent Kompany the new Cantona? I await his reinvention as a movie star with bated breath.”
I’d like to see him do something like this, maybe on Question Time. Even Soccer AM would do, tbf.
Team news, brought to you in association with mild surprise
A slightly funky selection from Pep Guardiola. He has decided to start Riyad Mahrez, who hasn’t been seen on a football field for over a month. Phil Foden drops out of the team and even the squad, with Bernardo Silva moving back into midfield. City have plenty of insurance on the bench – Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne.
Brighton & Hove Albion (4-2-3-1) Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Kayal, Bissouma; Knockaert, Gross, Jahanbakhsh; Murray.
Substitutes: Button, Burn, Bong, Montoya, Molumby, Locadia, Andone.
Manchester City (4-1-2-3) Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko; Gundogan; B Silva, D Silva; Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling.
Substitutes: Muric, Danilo, Stones, Otamendi, De Bruyne, Sane, Jesus.
Referee Michael Oliver.
The Premier League title race has been a marathon and a sprint. Manchester City and Liverpool have been at full pelt since August, but only one of them will swig Winners Fizz straight from the bottle when they cross the winning line just before 5pm. The other team, probably Liverpool, are going to feel a strange kind of disappointment. Contrary to Freddie Mercury’s lyrics, there will be time for losers whenever the story of the 2018-19 Premier League is told. Whoever finishes second will be indelibly associated with a unique title race – not the best in English football history, but certainly the most relentless.
If City retain the title by winning at Brighton today, it will be their 14th consecutive league victory. Even allowing for the inequalities of modern football, that would be a staggering achievement. Pep Guardiola and his team have had to go to places they didn’t know existed – like the 1-0 win.
There have been five in City’s last 10 league games – before that, there were five in Pep’s first 103 league games at the club – plus another in the FA Cup semi-final. Nothing says mental strength quite like the 1-0 win at the sharp end of a title race, and City will take more pride if they claim the title with an unlikely tribute to George Graham’s Arsenal than if they had run away with it like they did last season. Hopefully, if they do win the title today, Pep will reveal that his proudest possession is a specially made DVD with full coverage of Arsenal’s four league fixtures in October 1993: 0-0, 0-0, 0-0 and 0-0.
It’s hard to see City not winning today, despite the unyielding quality of Brighton’s defence. But they have looked tired in recent weeks, which is why they’ve needed all those 1-0 wins. And football has been bloodyhelling a lot of late, so you never know.
What we can say, without fear of contradiction from the sentient, is that whoever wins the title will deserve every last drop of Winners Fizz.
Kick off is at 3pm.