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English Premiership

Aguero gets City up and running at Brighton

Manchester City’s striker Sergio Aguero (2nd L) celebrates with midfielders Kevin De Bruyne (L) and Fernandinho (R) at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on August 12, 2017 © AFP / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE

BRIGHTON, United Kingdom, Aug 12Manchester City confirmed their status as Premier League title favourites with a professional 2-0 win at promoted Brighton and Hove Albion in their opening game on Saturday.

While rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool made uncertain starts to the campaign, City dominated their game against the division’s new boys.

Only a failure to convert their dominance of the ball into goals raised any doubts about their credentials.

Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled team enjoyed 76 percent of possession, but scored only twice, through Sergio Aguero after 70 minutes and an own goal by Brighton defender Lewis Dunk five minutes later.

In front of a record Amex Stadium crowd of 30,415, Brighton did not manage to force a single save from Ederson, who had one of the most uneventful debuts of any goalkeeper in Premier League history.

It was the Seagulls’ first top-flight match since 1983. Coincidentally, their previous home game at this level had also been against City, a 1-0 defeat that confirmed their relegation.

City also went down that season, but while Brighton may struggle again on this evidence, City look in the mood to live up to the bookmakers’ billing.

Guardiola also gave debuts to Kyle Walker and Danilo and Walker’s pace gave the home side early jitters as he advanced down the right before cutting back a dangerous cross that Brighton cleared with difficulty.

Then Gabriel Jesus flicked the ball over the head of Dunk, only for his final pass to be intercepted by Ireland centre-back Shane Duffy.

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Brighton seemed in awe of their visitors and it was lucky for them that Danilo shot wildly after Solly March had failed to track his run.

As Chris Hughton’s men repeatedly gave the ball away, it seemed only a matter of time before City got the ball in the net.

It happened after 27 minutes when Jesus got inside Dunk to reach a lofted pass from Aguero.

But as the ball bounced up off the forward’s knee, he nudged it past Mathew Ryan with his arm before colliding with the Australian goalkeeper.

Winded, he required treatment before rising from the turf to be shown a yellow card by referee Michael Oliver.

– De Bruyne pounces –

Jesus should have scored a legitimate goal after 33 minutes.

Walker again crossed from the right, the ball going over the giant Duffy to leave the onrushing Brazilian a free header.

Brighton’s Dutch midfielder Davy Propper (L) vies with Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester City on August 12, 2017 © AFP / CHRIS J RATCLIFFE

Ryan got down well to parry, but it seemed that Jesus must score from the rebound. Instead he hacked the ball wide.

City had given Brighton a lesson in possession and movement, but not finishing.

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That should have changed when City had a goal wrongly disallowed six minutes into the second half.

The referee’s assistant incorrectly flagged for offside as David Silva collected Fernandinho’s forward chip and passed to Jesus in front of an empty net.

But City had no excuses a minute later when Duffy’s dreadful back-pass sent Aguero through. However, with only Ryan to beat, he skewed his shot well wide.

Suddenly there was a flurry of attacking from Brighton. Following a corner, Duffy saw his shot deflected wide, then Dunk’s effort was blocked and Davy Propper crashed the ball a foot past the post.

However, it was a brief respite in City’s continual attacking.

Brighton were forced back in front of their own penalty area and unable to break out, Walker almost a full-time attacker.

Kevin De Bruyne appealed for a penalty when his shot struck the arm of Dunk, but referee Oliver shook his head.

The breakthrough finally arrived with 20 minutes to play.

De Bruyne robbed a tiring Stephens on the right before playing the ball inside to Silva and he sent Aguero through to beat Ryan.

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Five minutes later, Brighton again failed to clear their lines and Fernandinho’s cross from the right was headed past his own goalkeeper by the hapless Dunk.

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