MAN CITY 1, BRIGHTON 0
Youngster Phil Foden, affectionately known as Stockport’s Iniesta, fired Manchester City into the Premier League’s top four for the first time this season.
The 20-year-old was City’s matchwinner against Brighton enabling them to climb to third and hot on the heels of Manchester United and Liverpool.
Foden, who became top scorer with his eighth goal of the season, helped City extend their unbeaten run to 14 games in all competitions as they have momentum behind them.
And Foden has stepped up after the departure of David Silva rising to the challenge.
Foden also became the youngest player to score 10 Premier League goals at 20 years and 230 days since Dele Alli in 2016.
And City have yet to lose in the nine Premier League game in which Foden has scored – eight wins and one draw.Embed from Getty Images
Foden is delighted by City’s recent form: “It definitely feels like we’re back to our best. We’ve taken confidence from the last few results.
“We could have done better today, but overall I’m very proud of the team. It’s a great result.
“Brighton defended really well and had a good game plan. To get the goal before half-time was really important. It ended up as the winning goal so I’m delighted.
“I don’t score too many with my right foot so I enjoyed it.
“I always like to score goals and be there in the box. We just want to keep going with this form and pushing to win the league.”
There was praise from City manager Pep Guardiola for his matchwinner.
He said: “Phil Foden is 20 years old, look at the number of games he has played, the number of goals, number of assists, kilometres he has run, they speak for themselves and compare to the bigger stars in football.”
“He lives his life 24 hours a day to play football, With a lot of distractions today, he is happy training and happy to play games
“He can play both sides, in the middle as a false nine. He is so clever in front of goal. That is why he deserves to play.”
And of the game, Guardiola spoke about the challenge: “We knew how tough it would be. Brighton are brave, have courage and personality as Graham Potter’s teams always play
“We had a really good first half and had chances. After we missed a really clear chance in the second half, they were better.
“We need to win these sort of games. It is a good lesson for us. Every game will be like this.”
Brighton manager Potter could not fault his players, though his side is now nine games without a Premier League win.
He said: “We are disappointed, but we were up against a top team. I am so proud of the players who gave everything and showed great personality on the pitch.
“We tried to attack and defended with our lives when we had to do so.
“The second half was really good, really spirited. We pushed a very good team all the way.
“I am very happy with the quality and attitude of the players. Our season will not be defined tonight, but I saw enough to be encouraged.”
City made four changes from the side that easily beat Birmingham 3-0 in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday.
Ederson returned in goal, with John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan also starting. Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres were among the City substitutes.
Brighton made seven changes to the side that needed penalties to get past League Two Newport County on Sunday.
In came South African international Percy Tau for his debut, Robert Sanchez, Dan Burn, Leandro Trossard, Davy Propper, Bernardo and Joel Veltman, with Neal Maupay one of those on the bench.
They were intriguing line-ups with neither side containing a recognised centre forward.
It was a lukewarm opening and took almost quarter of an hour before City carved open the visiting defence for the first time.
Kevin De Bruyne found himself through on goal after playing a return pass with Gundogan, but Spanish goalkeeper Robert Sanchez blocked well on his six-yard line to deny the Belgian.
Leandro Trossard had the Seagulls’ first chance but bent an effort narrowly wide.
City had a great chance when referee Darren England deemed Adam Webster passed the ball to Sanchez after making an interception.
They had an indirect free kick 12 yards from goal. Bernardo Silva touched the ball to De Bruyne whose shot was charge down by Argentine Alexis Mac Allister as the visitors escaped.
City’s best chance in the 40th minute followed a break from a Brighton corner. Phil Foden released De Bruyne whose fierce shot was well kept out by Sanchez.
The breakthrough came one minute before the break when De Bruyne provided the assist to release Foden who shot low past Sanchez, his eighth goal of the season to become the team’s top scorer.
Mahrez ought to have doubled the lead when he cut in from the right only to fire narrowly wide just short of the hour.
That was soon followed by a double chance when Gundogan was denied by Sanchez and Bernardo Silva, following up, struck the crossbar.
City began to crank up the pressure as Joao Cancelo and De Bruyne both forced decent saves from Sanchez before making their first change when Jesus replaced Mahrez.
Brighton then enjoyed a dominant spell and Guardiola, sensing a need to kill off the game, brought on Raheem Sterling for Foden with 10 minutes left.
There was drama in stoppage time when City won a penalty after Lewis Dunk’s header fell short of keeper Sanchez who brought down De Bruyne.
Sterling stepped up to blaze over the crossbar but, it proved academic, as City held on to their lead.
It was his third successive spot kick miss in the Premier League as he has scored only three times in 18 games, a dip in his high standards of recent seasons.