Gabriel Jesus fires Manchester City past Brighton and into FA Cup final

first_img 20 Bernardo Silva (s 66′) Read more Match stats Pep Guardiola says quadruple ‘almost impossible’ for Manchester City 8 Bissouma By the standards Manchester City set themselves these days, it is fair to say this was not the most shimmering or elegant performance from Pep Guardiola’s team. When, for example, was the last time they managed only four shots on target against an opponent? The official man-of-the-match award went to Anthony Knockaert of Brighton, rather than any of the players from the winning side, and the overall impression was that City peaked too early, scoring the game’s decisive goal after barely three minutes.Not that those details should matter greatly to Guardiola when his team still managed to maintain their extraordinary winning sequence – 22 victories now from their last 23 games – and keeps open all manner of possibilities for the remainder of the season. The quadruple? Guardiola, as always, wanted to play down that kind of talk. Yet City already have one trophy in the bag, are now in the final of the FA Cup and are two points off the Premier League summit with a game in hand, even before we get to the fact they are about to embark on a Champions League quarter-final against a Spurs team 16 points below them in England’s top division.The most important detail, as Guardiola acknowledged, was that City still succeeded in booking a return to Wembley on 18 May for what will be their 17th visit to this stadium in the past nine seasons. Raheem Sterling, for one, can play with much more menace. David Silva could not exert his usual influence, and at times Kevin De Bruyne found it unusually difficult to find the space for his precision passes. He did, however, set up Gabriel Jesus with such a sumptuous delivery that it would have been ungrateful in the extreme for the Brazilian to pass up the chance to score.Ultimately, though, City can probably be excused an off-day. They still found a way, and that is what really matters. The quadruple is still on – whatever Guardiola says – and nobody could say the win was undeserved when the possession statistics were often more than 75% in their favour. Even on a day when they did not reach their usual heights, the imbalance of talent was simply too great between the reigning Premier League champions and the side in 16th position.Brighton’s fans had turned up with their streamers, balloons and an old-school level of excitement that perhaps is no longer evident for City these days. They outnumbered City’s fans, out-sang them and stayed back at the end to applaud the efforts of the losing team. Yet there was a reason why some of the bookmakers rated the chances of an upset at 30-1 and, sadly for Chris Hughton and his players, they never had the wit or invention in attack to recover from the early goal.That was City’s 20th goal in this season’s FA Cup and, to put that into context, it is the first time since Chelsea in 2012 that any side has accumulated that many. The difference is Chelsea did it over seven games. This was City’s fifth tie of an obliging run that has also featured encounters with Rotherham, Burnley, Newport and Swansea. It was a beautifully constructed goal and De Bruyne’s part in it – a sumptuous, knee-high cross behind the Brighton defence – was a reminder that it is possible to score a goal in which the creation, rather than the finish, is the best part. Not that the low, diving header from Jesus was too shabby either.After that kind of start, City might have been expected to win far more convincingly than was the case. Instead, a measure of carelessness crept in. More than anything, City failed to move the ball as quickly as usual. They also came up against a defence that was superbly marshalled by Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy. The problem for Brighton was that if they committed too many players forward in search of an equaliser, they always knew it would leave them vulnerable on the counterattack. Overall, perhaps they were not ambitious enough, especially in the final quarter of an hour. Yet they will also reflect on what happened in the 32nd minute and wonder whether a red card for Kyle Walker might have dramatically improved their chances.Walker was certainly pushing his luck when he squared up to Alireza Jahanbakhsh, taking their argument so far that the referee, Anthony Taylor, held up play to see whether the VAR officials considered it a sending-off offence.Walker was entitled to be irritated because, as he was shepherding the ball out of play, Jahanbakhsh came in from behind and kneed him in the back of the leg. As they went to ground, the Iranian’s studs landed on the back of Walker’s left thigh. Was it accidental? Probably, but Walker had his back to the player and was unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt.The two players went nose to nose before Walker brought down his forehead with enough aggression to merit the involvement of VAR. What probably saved him was that it was not a forward motion. Hughton still felt it merited a red card. The officials disagreed, with Walker shown only a yellow, and when Brighton had their best opportunity in the second half Duffy’s knockdown inside the six-yard area was hacked away. BRI MNC 33 Gabriel Jesus 2 Saltor Goal attempts 1 Ryan 26 Mahrez match reports The Observer Reuse this content Lineups Fouls 31 Ederson 25 Fernandinho 21 Silva 47 Foden Brighton 2 Walker 8 Gundogan 17 Murray Share on Pinterest 30 Bernardo 7 Sterling 10 Andone 27 Button Manchester City Man City Share on Messenger 4 Duffy 31 69 24 Propper 19 Izquierdo FA Cup 13 5 9 Man City Off target 3 Brighton 4 Man City On target 2 Brighton Share via Email Share on Twitter 16 Jahanbakhsh 19 Sane Share on LinkedIn (s 65′) 3 Danilo (s 79′) 11 Knockaert 14 Laporte 3 Bong Possession Topics (s 70′) Brighton & Hove Albion (s 82′) Substitutes 17 De Bruyne 33 Burn Share on WhatsApp 9 Locadia Share on Facebook Substitutes Read more (s 46′) 22 Mendy 5 Stones 6 Stephens 49 Muric 22 Montoya BRI31MNC69% 9 4 5 Dunk Kyle Walker’s VAR escape shows up football’s dunderheaded experiment 30 Otamendi Cornerslast_img read more