For Brighton & Hove Albion, this was one of those scenarios when the age-old saying about sport’s value being in the taking part rang true. It was never likely to be about the winning, not against Premier League favourites with all the massed qualities that Manchester City bring. In some ways it is no bad thing this one is ticked off now. Brighton can get on with the task in hand with a different kind of focus.
City were not at their slickest but still possessed more than enough finesse to dominate, cruise through the game and pick up three points thanks to two late goals.
Pep Guardiola’s satisfaction to begin the campaign with an exercise in control and a straightforward win was clear. They did everything required, with gallons of potential in the tank. But do not go reading too much into it now.
“Last season I was sitting here after the Sunderland game and you said: ‘You are the favourites, most beautiful, handsome and nice guys in the league.’ And after, you know what happened last season? Chelsea killed us,” he said. “OK, we accept what the people say but all we have to try is to improve and improve.”
The speed of their attacking patterns is an area he wants to tweak, and it was notable how many dynamic players were in reserve. What a bench – Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling came on for late cameos.
Guardiola was pleased to see his defence was relatively untroubled. The presence of Vincent Kompany always makes a difference, Kyle Walker slotted in comfortably and his fellow summer signing, Ederson, in goal, had only one nerve-wracking moment to contend with.
Brighton could have been handed a gentler first course at English football’s top table. Perhaps a Watford or Huddersfield or Burnley or so the stereotype would have it … As it turned out the highly tuned and luxuriously reinforced ambition of Guardiola’s City ensured the excitement was mixed with an understandable dose of trepidation.