Manchester City 2, Brighton 1
Erling Haaland broke his goal drought with a thunderous match winner as Manchester City beat Brighton to end their domestic losing run.
Julian Alvarez had opened the scoring before Haaland made it two before Ansu Fati pulled a goal back and Manuel Akanji’s injury time sending off added to nervous moments at the end before victory was confirmed as City failed to repeat an excellent first half and instead almost failed to secure the vital win.
Rodri’s return from domestic suspension gave City an early boost as Alvarez swept home Jeremy Doku’s cutback from the byline for his 7th goal of the season.
Kaoru Mitoma tested stand-in keeper Stefan Ortega but the Seagulls were hit by injury to Danny Welbeck, who was replaced by Evan Ferguson.
And not long after that Erling Haaland pounced after Carlos Balebas error and hammered home City’s second from outside the box – his ninth goal of the season.
Doku, who gave for City midfielder James Milner a torrid time down his flank, could have extended City’s lead but he certainly saw off the veteran who was replaced at half time by tough tackling Joel Veltman.
City had a narrow escape following a poor goal kick by Ortega, he was rescued with help from Rodri.
Alvarez sent a free kick over the bar but a lapse by City allowed Brighton back into the game when Kyle Walker was bamboozled by Kaoru Mitoma who made space to square the ball.
Manuel Akanji reached it but his half clearanance only fell to substitute Ansu Fati who halved the deficit with a tap in with 17 minutes to go.
The visitors had some hope of getting something out of the game and City made two changes – taking off Doku and John Stones and bringing on Jack Grealish and Ruben Dias.
And although Haaland had an eyecatching run towards the end of the game City were noticeable subdued after that.
Solly March went down in added time with a serious looking knee injury to add to the tension while Ansu Fati was tripped by Manuel Akanji deep into injury time to earn the Swiss defender his second yellow card.
Nathan Ake replaced Alvarez for the final nervous moments as City held out.
PLAYER RATINGS – Manchester City 2, Brighton 1
Stefan Ortega: 6. Early action thanks to Mitoma shot, a poor kick out allowed a Brighton counter attack in which Pascal Gross shot wide under pressure from Rodri but he also hit Phil Foden with an inch perfect longer pass later. Came off his line to save from Mitoma in the second half after Fati had sent him clear and caught a Pascal Gross free kick right at the end.
Kyle Walker: 6. Last line of defence looked after Joao Pedro and kept Kaoru Mitoma quiet until the 73rd minute when the Japanese winger wriggled past him to set up Brighton’s goal.
John Stones: 8. Back from injury and inverted into a midfielder pushing into attack like he was never away.
Manuel Akanji: 6. Decent game but booked and his poor clearance of Kaoru Mitoma’s cross fell straight to Ansu Fati who had a tap in. Sent off for two bookable offences.
Josko Gvardiol: 8. Had a shot in the first half which forced a save from Jason Steele. Mopped up threats easily at the back and minded the house while Jeremy Doku made hay while looking for chances to go forward.
Rodri: 7. Sense of assuredness now he’s back in the team but good booked for another needless infringement after kicking the ball away. Got back to defend a great chance for Pascal Gross to score.
Julian Alvarez: 7. Ghosted in to sweep home an early opening goal to settle Man City nerves and worked hard to press the ball high throughout. Saw a free kick go over the bar and released Jeremy Doku for a great chance.
Bernardo Silva: 7. Hard working in midfield as usual and got forward a bit too.
Jeremy Doku: 8. Had James Milner on toast down the City left flank and set up the opening goal for City. Had fans on their feet as he also tried outrageous shots and tricks. His opponent in the second half – Joel Veltman – trod on him but he persevered and had a shot saved by Jason Steele.
Phil Foden: 7. Started on the right wing and gave Solly March the run around. Set up Erling Haaland for a great chance but the Norwegian’s effort was saved.
Erling Haaland: 7. Ended his goal drought in style with a rare strike from outside the area. Had an easier shot saved by Jason Steele in the second half
Ruben Dias (on for John Stones, 75): 6. A more orthodox option to combat the physical Evan Ferguson.
Jack Grealish (on for Jeremy Doku, 75): 6. On for more control of the ball.
Nathan Ake (on for Julian Alvarez, 90+6): No time to mark
GOALS – Manchester City 2, Brighton 1
Man City 1, Brighton 0: 7. Julian Alvarez swept the ball home from 10 yards after Jeremy Doku cut the ball back from the byline leaving goalkeeper Jason Steele flapping.
Man City 2, Brighton 0: 19. Erling Haaland ran clear from 30 yards out and hammered in a rocket from 22 yards out past Jason Steele after Bernardo Silva pressed Carlos Baleba and the ball broke for the Norwegian.
Man City 2, Brighton 1: 73. Kaoru Mitoma finally got the better of Kyle Walker to make space for a cross and Manuel Kanji’s poor clearance went straight to Ansu Fati to let the Seagulls back into the game.
MATCH STATS – Manchester City 2, Brighton 1
Man City: Ortega, Walker (C), Stones (Dias 75), Akanji, Gvardiol, Rodri, Alvarez (Ake 90+6), Bernardo Silva, Doku (Grealish 75), Foden, Haaland
Man City Subs not used: Ederson, Phillips, Kovacic, Gomez, Nunes, Lewis
Booked: Rodri 39 (dissent); Akanji 63 (foul on Kaoru Mitoma); Grealish 84; Akanji 90+5 (foul on Ansu Fati)
Red Card: Akanji 90+5 (second yellow card)
Goals: Alvarez 7; Haaland 19
Brighton: Steele, Milner (Veltman 46), Dunk (C), Julio, March (van Hecke 90+4), Baleba (Gilmour 65), Gross, Adingra, Welbeck (Ferguson 16), Mitoma, Joao Pedro (Fati 65)
Brighton Subs not used: Verbruggen, Webster, Dahoud, Lallana
Booked: March 36 (foul on Phil Foden); Julio 65 (foul on Rodri)
Goal: Fati 73
Referee: Robert Jones