Guardiola snubbed by Man City stars as champions pay price for Brighton hangover

Brighton V Man City: Pictures

Manchester City suffered a hangover from their Premier League title party as Pep Guardiola was left unimpressed after their 1-1 draw with Brighton. Phil Foden opened the scoring for the visitors before Julio Enciso’s incredible strike proved to be a worthy leveller as the spoils were shared at the Amex Stadium. Guardiola won’t be entirely happy with the champions’ performance after their title celebrations, though, as Express Sport assesses the talking points from the entertaining clash.

Guardiola instructions snubbed

When Guardiola barks an instruction to his players, they know better than to ignore their manager – and Kevin De Bruyne certainly won’t need telling after his ‘shut up’ remark blew up in his face last week.

With his side leading 1-0 after Foden’s goal, Guardiola wanted his defence to push up to the halfway line as he identified the space between his defence and midfield. His players failed to heed the instruction as Kyle Walker wasn’t attentive and when Brighton played it forward, the gaping void was clear.

Enciso strode through unchallenged and even with John Stones near him, the Paraguayan let fly with a stunning effort that flew into the top corner. The goalkeeper could do nothing to stop it, but Guardiola felt his outfield players could – and they ignored him at his peril as the 52-year-old fumed on the touchline.

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De Zerbi may be the new Pep

Guardiola paid the Italian the ultimate compliment when he suggested his arrival has been one of the biggest moments in the last 20 years. In truth, he might well have just been talking about himself because that statement is certainly true for the five-time Premier League-winning coach, while De Zerbi still has some questions to answer after a magnificent debut campaign in the Premier League.

The Italian has transformed Brighton from a team that others took notice of to one that is genuinely feared when they appear next on the fixture sheet. They danced around City at times when playing it out from the back and the confidence flowing through their players was evident as the crowd shouted ‘Ole’ from the stands in delight.

Aside from the anomaly of their 5-1 thrashing against Everton, he has rarely put a foot wrong and has captured the hearts of Brighton fans. He has the same combination of passion, tactical knowledge and demands for perfection that saw Guardiola become so successful, and the Catalan’s complimentary words proved to be bang on the money as De Zerbi prepares their European adventure next season.

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Haaland’s rare off night

City fans have seen Erling Haaland break clear with consummate ease and find the bottom corner so often this season, they could be forgiven for thinking the Norwegian has never missed. But the towering striker got his feet in a muddle as he shot straight at Jason Steele, indicating that he is human after all.

Whether it was a case of Haaland partying too hard or taking his foot of the gas, the 22-year-old looked a yard short of his devastating best. He tried a misguided bicycle kick in the second half and could only laugh as it soared into the stands.

After scoring 36 goals in the Premier League this season, smashing the record set by Mohamed Salah, Haaland is allowed to have a night where he is not quite at his best. City will be hoping he has got out of his system ahead of their FA Cup and Champions League finals to come after going two games without a goal for only the third time this season.

Life after Mac Allister and Caicedo

Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister and Pervis Estupinan have all attracted interest from clubs across Europe and Brighton have refused to shut down speculation linking them with an exit, accepting a club of their size must cash in on their stars where possible. There is a chance that it could affect them given Mac Allister has scored 10 goals in the Premier League this season, but as long as Julio Enciso and Facundo Buonanotte are around, they will be just fine.

The South American pair are not even out of their teenage years yet and already look capable of filling their shoes. Enciso not only scored a wonderful goal from 25 yards out, he made a mockery of John Stones with a deft little flick before Bernardo Silva brought him down. Even Billy Gilmour was superb in the centre of midfield, having struggled for minutes in the first half of the season.

Both Enciso and Gilmour were given a standing ovation as they made way on 50 minutes, which had absolutely nothing to do with their performance. And it goes to show that even if they sell Mac Allister and Caicedo for huge fees this summer, there are ready-made replacements already shining at the Amex Stadium.

Winning run ends before unlucky 13

Manchester City had won all of their last 12 matches in the Premier League, which contributed to their fightback from eight points behind Arsenal to win the Premier League.

But here, Guardiola’s men fell short and they had no reason to complain either. Brighton matched them in almost every department and could have won it themselves had it not been for a few saves from Stefan Ortega.

It means City’s chances of repeating their incredible 18-game winning run are over and once again, the number 13 has proved to be unlucky for the champions. Whether they would have won if the title was still up for grabs, however, is another matter.

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