Manchester City Are Champions, But Europa League Brighton Are Beautiful

Brighton drew 1-1 with Manchester City at the AMEX
21:58, 24 May 2023

Julio Enciso hadn’t scored a goal at the AMEX Stadium before. With his side 1-0 down to the champions, he decided to just smash one from range, and like most things Brighton have tried this season, it paid off. The ball flew off his boot like a cannon and wobbled its way straight into the top corner - a genuine moment of wonder in a game that had almost nothing riding on it. 

It was a goal of the season contender. One that came from an xG of just 0.02, just to give you some idea of how unlikely the strike was to end up in the back of the net. But there was something so beautiful about the way in which it glided through the air, its flight path only interrupted by the white softness of the net. 

Those behind the goal began applauding before the ball was even in - and they were the travelling fans from Manchester. Sure it’s easy to applaud your opponents when you’ve secured your third Premier League title in a row and are on course for the treble, but still, it shows just how good it was. 


That goal came after City were rewarded for their season’s endeavour with a guard of honour and took the lead when Erling Haaland rounded Luke Steele and then set up Phil Foden to finish. But Brighton are like a slice of lemon in your Coke or a Twister on a summer’s day. Completely refreshing in the Premier League. 

In fact, as Gary Neville put it - Brighton are beautiful. The way Roberto De Zerbi has got them playing this season is beyond what anybody at the Amex could have imagine a couple of years ago. Even under Graham Potter they weren’t this good. Guardiola claimed his opposite number was "one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years," in his pre-match press conference and although many scoffed at the suggestion - what he is doing to Brighton is outrageous.

They matched Manchester City for the majority of the match and on paper, they shouldn’t be able to. But that is the sign of a top level manager. De Zerbi even left Lewis Dunk, recently called up to the England squad, and Alexis Mac Allister on his bench to give others an opportunity. But they are all cogs in his wonderful machine. 

If they do lose the World Cup winner this summer as is expected, it is unlikely to affect them. Just as when they lost Marc Cucurella last summer, there is always a ready-made replacement ready to step into the first team. The Seagulls have only arguably made a single mistake in the transfer window in the past five seasons, in letting Viktor Gyokeres go, and that is why they have made such astonishing progress. 

They’ve become every neutral’s favourite team. But this isn’t a patronising pat on the back, this is a sign that next term with a full season under De Zerbi, they could be a real threat. This was only the third time in the last 20 matches that Man City have failed to win. The other two sides to stop them? Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. This point confirmed the Seagulls will be playing in the Europa League next term. A genuinely sensational achievement for beautiful, beautiful Brighton. 

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