Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva run riot in Kevin De Bruyne’s absence in win at Brighton

From the AMEX – Saturday night gave Premier League fans a top four clash to savour – or so the script read an hour or so from kick off.

One team is more comfortable at the top and the other is a slight outlier, but that did little to distract from what looked like being a fascinating battle between Brighton and Manchester City on the south coast.

The Seagulls actually came out on top in this corresponding fixture last season, beating City 3-2 when the visitors had already wrapped up the Premier League title.

But there was never a whiff of that result repeating itself this time around.

Brighton stick to their ideals however each game goes, often to their credit and sometimes – like on this night – to their discredit. The Seagulls could get nowhere near City’s dangerous forwards, with the midfield trio of Adam Lallana, Jakub Moder and Pascal Groß all struggling.

But it’s ridiculous to focus on where Brighton went wrong when it was more a case of what went so right for Pep Guardiola’s City, who won 4-1 at the AMEX.

Still without a recognised striker, Phil Foden led the line up top and was supported by Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus out wide, and once the three started to click, the writing was on the wall for Graham Potter’s side.

With Bernardo Silva also buzzing around behind that trio and continuing his resurgence after a busy and uncertain summer, the visitors’ thrust going forward just proved too much for the hosts to handle.

Brighton, remaining true to their ethos, played out from the back and looked to stretch the play, but it was never their players who benefitted from that tactic. Instead, Silva often picked up possession and drove into space, holding the ball just long enough to attract ample attention before sending it over to Foden or Grealish.

While the first goal came about because of a flap from Robert Sanchez, the second was a trademark City counter, moving the ball at pace but delightfully simply from Silva to Grealish to Foden, who eventually stuck it in despite some late pressure from Dan Burn.

Foden, of course, isn’t a classic striker, but he will be able to enjoy games like this where he is given enough space to attack through the middle when players like Grealish and Jesus are making inroads out wide.

The 21-year-old got his second goal of the contest three minutes later, though it was more fortune than inspiration as Jesus’ shot deflected off his backside and into the back of the net.

Foden and Silva were incredibly sharp throughout the evening, so much so that Kevin De Bruyne’s absence for most of the game was barely felt by the visitors. The Belgian wasn’t needed as Silva drove into space time and time again while Foden was clinical in front of goal. He even rounded off his night’s work with an assist, laying one on a plate for substitute Riyad Mahrez in stoppage time.

The Premier League title race is as open as it has been at this stage of a season as it has been for years, and that is a brilliant thing. But while the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea look like contenders once again, neither would dare leave out a player of De Bruyne’s ability, given they just don’t have the same depth.

City can pull out excellent performances away from home, and they don’t have to lean on their best player. Instead, stars like Foden and Silva can step up and make the difference, and that may be what separates City from the rest of the pack come May next year.

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