The coastal regions of England are abuzz with the news of Brighton and Hove Albion securing UEFA Europa League football with an important draw against Premier League champions Manchester City on Tuesday night.
19-year-old Paraguayan midfielder Julio Enciso scored a stunner to equalise for the Seagulls after 22-year-old Phil Foden, who became the youngest player to win five Premier League titles after Arsenal’s loss to Nottingham Forest handed City the lead, opened the scoring.
The match was an important one for the Seagulls but for the Cityzens, it was an exhibition match. Pep Guardiola, as he is wont to do, named a relaxed starting XI for the game but Roberto De Zerbi, knowing that history was at stake, came out with his best team. Nobody goes up against City with a weak team, after all.
The game was a brilliant tactical battle between the Spaniard and the Italian who hosted him and the embrace that both men shared after the game was proof of it. It was very similar to the touching moment shared by fictional manager Ted Lasso and Guardiola, who appeared as a guest star on the self-named comedy series the day before the game.
In the episode where Lasso’s AFC Richmond met Guardiola’s fictionalised version of his Manchester City team, Lasso led his team to a famous 2 – 0 victory at the Etihad and Guardiola praised how he has handled his team up until that point. In a similar vein, Guardiola had praised De Zerbi before the match, saying that he was one of the most revolutionary managers of the last 20 years.
After the match, the 43-year-old, who had had stints at several clubs in Italy before moving abroad to manage Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk and eventually signing up to replace Graham Potter at the AMEX earlier in the season, praised Guardiola in turn after putting up a show against the champions.
De Zerbi stated that Guardiola was the one who inspired him to go into coaching. “I became a coach for him because I loved his Barcelona,” De Zerbi, himself a former midfielder, said. “I studied him a lot. I don’t want to copy no-one but I took [ideas] when I started to be a coach. Pep is number one.”
The game was a beautiful display of attacking and possession-based football as both teams frequently won possession from the other and played through each other to get into goal scoring areas.
Guardiola, who is looking to win a treble with Manchester City to become the first manager to win two trebles in this century, was happy about how his team played and the quality of the opposition. He expressed happiness at facing such a team ahead of the UEFA Champions League final against Internazionale and the FA Cup final against Manchester United.
“Absolutely,” he answered when asked if Brighton was a good preparation for their upcoming finals. “We need these opponents to bring us to our maximum. Games winning 3-0 would be damaging. Brentford will be the same. We have to play at that level in the finals.”