Goals were easy to come by for Manchester City as they continued their eye-catching home form against Brighton. Chloe Kelly played a starring role as Gareth Taylor’s side cruised to victory and deepened Brighton’s troubles near the bottom of the table.
An early own goal from Veatriki Sarri sent City on their way before Julie Blakstad and Laura Coombs added to the tally. Brighton pulled one back late on through Lee Guem-min.
“It was a good win,” Taylor, the City manager, said. “I think we looked a bit slow in the first five minutes, but the goal settled us. Our set-play delivery was really good today and then after that we scored two excellent goals.
“I would say the second half was a bit too loose from us in possession … I’m just disappointed that we’ve not added more goals to our performance. But it keeps us right in touch and that’s the really pleasing thing.”
Taylor’s side have been somewhat flying under the radar this season, but their form has been noteworthy. Plenty of turnover in the summer and injury issues led to disruption early on but his side are unbeaten since September and evidently heading in the right direction. With the league’s joint top scorer in Bunny Shaw spearheading their attack they have made the Academy Stadium a fortress, winning the past eight at home.
City were clear favourites with the weight of history and Brighton’s inconsistent form on their side. They have won all but one of their previous league encounters against the Seagulls, scoring 34 goals and conceding just three. Amy Merricks’ side have been scoring more recently but are predictably leaky at the back.
This trend continued in the first half with City dominant throughout. Kelly ran Brighton’s defensive line ragged with her dancing feet and driving offensive play. The England forward is still searching for her first domestic goal of the season and seemed determined to break that run. It appeared she had in the 11th minute as her dipping corner ended up in the back of the net only for it later to be marked as an own goal against Sarri, who had got a touch at the near post.
Kelly continued to be City’s main attacking outlet and was the instigator of their second goal. With another driving run down the right she beat both Poppy Pattinson and Lee before setting up Blakstad for a diving header. It was the 21-year-old’s fifth goal of the season as she continues to make an impact.
With less than half an hour on the clock, City were three up and in cruise control. Coombs, known as a strong box-to-box midfielder, produced a sublime top‑corner finish that flew past the outstretched Megan Walsh.
With a comfortable lead, City could afford to take their foot off the gas in the second half. Taylor was also able to give minutes to his bench, with Kelly brought off, among others.
Brighton proved a sterner opposition in the second, with Danielle Carter coming close to pulling one back for her side. They got their consolation at the death when Lee poked home in the 93rd minute. For her part, Merricks was impressed by the improvements her side made in the game, providing them with a platform to build on.
“I think in the first half there were some key areas that we needed to improve on,” Brighton’s interim manager said. “I think we did that at half-time and came out better in the second. The players really applied themselves and were committed to the idea of what we wanted to do … Obviously, they’re going to have opportunities. I think we limited that, and we created [opportunities]. We can hold our heads up high today in terms of how we showcased ourselves.”
Despite this consolation, it was a comfortable victory for City as they closed the gap on the top of the table. Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium await them next weekend, an occasion that will prove a real test of their title credentials.