Manchester City began an important week with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Brighton at the Etihad Stadium.
Goals in the 29th and 65th minutes from Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero earned City the three points in a game where they had 80 per cent possession and 28 shots to Brighton’s four.
City head to Hoffenheim on Tuesday needing a victory to ignite their Champions League challenge following the shock loss to Lyon before next Sunday’s much-anticipated clash with Liverpool at Anfield.
Pep Guardiola resisted the temptation to make numerous changes. David Silva returned in place of Ilkay Gundogan while Oleksandr Zinchenko took Fabian Delph’s spot.
Brighton were without the injured Dale Stephens and Glenn Murray was only on the bench, meaning starts for Beram Kayal and Jurgen Locadia – his first of the season.
Aguero tried the spectacular in only the fourth minute, and his overhead kick from Bernardo Silva’s flicked cross looked to be on target before it struck a Brighton defender.
At the other end, the dangerous Anthony Knockaert saw an effort blocked by Fernandinho and was then booked for catching Zinchenko.
Brighton were certainly not making life easy for City but the pressure began to grow, with Aguero mistiming a second attempt at an overhead kick before Leroy Sane slammed a shot into Mat Ryan’s midriff from outside the box.
The breakthrough came three minutes later as the hosts succeeded in getting behind the Brighton defence for the first time. Aguero played in Sane who crossed for Sterling to slide in and apply the finish.
The Brighton goal stayed virtually under siege for the rest of the half and Ryan had to be alert to keep out well-struck efforts from Sterling and Fernandinho.
Brighton finally made it across the halfway line in injury time and Knockaert again found space but saw another effort blocked.
Any hope that half-time might stall City’s momentum was soon dashed as the assault on Ryan’s goal continued. Kyle Walker drilled a shot just past the post while Sane probably should have done better than head Bernardo Silva’s cross down and over the bar.
City somehow failed to extend their lead in the 58th minute as first Lewis Dunk produced a great block to deny Aguero and then Ryan kept out David Silva’s fierce drive.
But the Brighton keeper was helpless seven minutes later as Aguero drove forward before playing a one-two with Sterling and sliding the ball into the corner.
He was substituted immediately with the points all but wrapped up, earning an enthusiastic hug from Guardiola.
Riyad Mahrez then replaced Sane and Brighton boss Chris Hughton sent on Murray for Locadia, who had ploughed the loneliest of furrows up front.
‘Jose Mourinho, we want you to stay’ rang loudly around the Etihad as the City fans celebrated a nine-point lead over their neighbours after only seven games.
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P