SOC­CER

City avoids early strain of ti­tle ri­vals, beat Brighton

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Avoid­ing the strains and strug­gles en­dured by its ti­tle ri­vals, Manch­ester City is off to a win­ning start. City took 70 min­utes to break through Brighton’s re­sis­tance and was aided by the English Pre­mier League new­comer’s care­less­ness to en­sure it left the southern sea­side re­sort with a 2-0 vic­tory on Satur­day.

But com­pared to the plight of Ar­se­nal, Chelsea, and Liver­pool on the open­ing week­end, this was an as­sign­ment smoothly ne­go­ti­ated by Pep Guardi­ola’s team. Ar­se­nal raised the cur­tain on the season by only just over­com­ing Le­ices­ter 4-3 on Fri­day night be­fore Liver­pool con­ceded a stop­page-time goal to draw at Wat­ford 3-3 on Satur­day lunchtime. Then in the most volatile re­sult so far, Chelsea opened its ti­tle de­fense by im­plod­ing with a 3-2 loss to Burn­ley and end­ing the game with nine men.

“We spoke about that,” Guardi­ola said after Satur­day’s last game, “what hap­pened with Liver­pool and what hap­pened at Chelsea.” No won­der Guardi­ola was so re­lieved at the start of his se­cond season in charge.

“The first game is al­ways com­pli­cated,” said Guardi­ola, a ti­tle-win­ner with Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich. “We saw this week­end what hap­pened in many games. So it is so com­pli­cated. From my ex­pe­ri­ence, even in Barcelona, too. The first game, es­pe­cially with the newly pro­moted, when they have the pas­sion, the fans, no pres­sure, it is al­ways dif­fi­cult, and we did it.”

Brighton, though, was suc­cess­fully re­pelling City’s po­tent strike force un­til a costly lapse. Brighton mid­fielder Dale Stephens dithered around the halfway be­fore be­ing dis­pos­sessed by Kevin de Bruyne. David Silva then slot­ted the ball through for Ser­gio Aguero to ap­ply the finish past goal­keeper Maty Ryan with 20 min­utes to go. The south-coast side fell fur­ther be­hind in the 75th minute when Lewis Dunk, un­der pres­sure from Gabriel Je­sus, headed Fer­nand­inho’s cross into his own net in Brighton’s first game in the top-flight in 34 years. “We were sta­ble,” Guardi­ola said. “We con­ceded just one open­ing after one cor­ner and after that, noth­ing hap­pened. We tried to im­prove, to at­tack more flu­ently, a lit­tle bit quicker, a lit­tle more pre­cise, a lit­tle more ac­cu­racy in our passes.”

It helps when you have the lux­ury of re­sources to bring a trio of at­tack­ing play­ers worth a com­bined $175 mil­lion off the bench, with Leroy Sane, Ra­heem Ster­ling, and Bernardo Silva help­ing to wear down Brighton.

“It is not easy to at­tack 10 play­ers there,” Guardi­ola said. City, which fin­ished tro­phy­less last season, starts again as ti­tle fa­vorite with book­mak­ers after spend­ing than more than 200 mil­lion pounds ($260 mil­lion) on strength­en­ing the squad. Guardi­ola, though, is cau­tious. Es­pe­cially after see­ing City reel off 10 suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries to open the last league cam­paign only to finish third. “Last season I was sit­ting here after the Sun­der­land game and you said you are the fa­vorites, most beautiful hand­some and nice guys in the league,” Guardi­ola said. “And after, you know what hap­pened last season? Chelsea kill us. OK, we ac­cept what the peo­ple say and all we have to try is im­prove and im­prove.”

— AP

BRIGHTON: Manch­ester City’s Ser­gio Aguero, right, and Brighton & Hove Al­bion’s Tomer Hemed, se­cond right, vie for the ball dur­ing the Pre­mier League soc­cer match Brighton and Hove Al­bion’s ver­sus Manch­ester City at the AMEX Sta­dium, Brighton, Eng­land, Satur­day.

Brighton Man City 0 2

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