An off-color Manchester City clinched an FA Cup final berth on Saturday with a sloppy 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion.
Kevin De Bruyne’s meticulous, menacing delivery from near the corner of the 18-yard box bounced behind the Brighton backline and found Gabriel Jesus’ diving header after four minutes.
There were few moments of note after the opener, aside from Kyle Walker being lucky to avoid a red card when he pushed his head into the face of Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Aymeric Laporte’s stupendous goal-line clearance.
Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers will lock horns at Wembley on Sunday to determine City’s opponent in the final on May 18.
Glenn Murray, Anthony Knockaert, and Jahanbakhsh were selected in a positive lineup for Brighton, while Pep Guardiola handed Benjamin Mendy his first start since November’s Manchester derby. Sergio Aguero was unavailable while he nurses an injury.
De Bruyne, perhaps a surprise starter given his recent admission that he’s far from peak condition, unleashed a trademark delivery for Jesus’ goal. However, the Seagulls then contained their opponents well in an increasingly scrappy half.
Walker was the antagonist of a contentious moment when he took exception to being knocked over by Jahanbakhsh just past the half-hour mark. Despite Anthony Taylor receiving assistance from VAR, the right-back was surprisingly only shown a yellow for his aggressive behavior.
Walker cut a frustrated figure a little later when he was withdrawn at the interval for Danilo.
City fans’ nerves were jangling almost 10 minutes after the restart when Laporte made a last-ditch clearance to deny Murray an easy tap-in.
Raheem Sterling forced Mat Ryan into an athletic save and was thwarted again in injury time while Brighton thrust the likes of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk in search of an equalizer. Overall, City ‘keeper Ederson made two saves over the 90 minutes.
“What the lads put in today was incredible. We come out of this cup with a lot of credit,” Knockaert told BBC Sport after the match. “We played against the champions and they may be champions again this year. I can’t remember a clear chance for them apart from the goal.
“I have got two feelings. I am really disappointed because I felt we could have got something. At the same time I am really happy because if we talk about budget, a team with amazing players, what we showed today was incredible.”