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Pep toasts champion's intensity after boozy buildup

Updated: 2023-05-26 09:46
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Manchester City's Erling Haaland unleashes an acrobatic strike during Wednesday's Premier League match at Brighton. REUTERS

BRIGHTON, England — Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised the intensity of his Premier League champion after a 1-1 draw at Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday despite admitting to some booze-fueled celebrations a little over 48 hours before.

For the first time since February, City dropped league points as a stunning goal by Brighton's Paraguayan teenager Julio Enciso snapped its 12-game winning run in the league.

Erling Haaland, who set up Phil Foden's opener, had a late goal disallowed, resulting in a yellow card for Guardiola who simply hates dropping points.

City has one more league game left before an FA Cup final against Manchester United and then a Champions League final against Inter Milan.

Victories in both will see City match Manchester United's 1998-99 treble, so Guardiola's players might have been excused for taking their foot off the gas, having won a fifth title in six seasons last weekend. That they did not win, however, was more to do with an excellent Brighton side who sealed a Europa League spot.

"Exceptional game. Congratulations to Brighton for their deserved qualification to the Europa League," Guardiola told Sky Sports. "The game we played, 48 hours after we drank all the alcohol in Manchester, 48 hours later we behaved and we showed why we were the champions against that team.

"We showed what we have done with and without the ball. I didn't see one drop in our intensity and idea. They had chances, we had chances, we scored a goal, they scored a goal.

"Both teams want the ball, both teams want to press. The keepers are fundamental in this game. The quality (Brighton) have, they are an exceptional team."

Guardiola shared some jokes during the game with Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi and warmly congratulated the home players.

But he was angry that Haaland's goal was disallowed for shirt-pulling. "Watch it. Watch it, if it's a fault, every action for Erling is a fault," he said of his 52-goal striker.

Guardiola said his side cannot afford to lose any momentum as it seeks to make history.

"I didn't see it, against Chelsea I didn't see it today. During the week we have to rest, recover mentally," he said.

"It's been demanding for the past six months playing Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, chasing Arsenal. The training now is just relaxed."

Brighton's point means it can make plans for the Europa League, the club's first European venture.

"What an achievement, what a club, what a group of guys. The togetherness, the culture and we are driven by a top, top manager. Special times," keeper Jason Steele said.

It marks an outstanding first season in charge at Albion for manager De Zerbi, who only took over from Graham Potter in September after Potter left for an ill-fated spell with Chelsea. "It's a fantastic goal, we achieved an incredible target," De Zerbi said.

"Man City is the best team in the world. For us it was a very tough game. We deserve the point. We deserve the Europa League."

The club faced an uncertain future at the time of Potter's exit but has gone on to flourish under Italian De Zerbi, who also led the team to the FA Cup semifinals.

Sixth place beats Brighton's previous highest finish of ninth, which it achieved under Potter last year.

"You never know in the early part of the season what may happen when you hire a new coach," Brighton chairman Tony Bloom said. "Fortunately we hired the perfect man. The players have taken to him so magnificently. His motivational skills, tactical skills and getting the best out of our players has been absolutely superb."


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