Pep Guardiola hailed Phil Foden’s ‘special instinct’ in front of goal after the young midfielder scored his fourth of the Premier League campaign to help Manchester City to a 1-0 victory over Brighton on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old England international made space for himself after receiving the ball from Kevin De Bruyne on the edge of the box and placed a controlled effort past Robert Sanchez to break the deadlock right on half-time at the Etihad.
Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva all squandered chances to extend City’s lead and Raheem Sterling struck a late penalty well over the crossbar after Sanchez brought down De Bruyne.
But the hosts held on to their narrow advantage to secure all three points and Guardiola was satisfied with the performance his players produced against ‘tough’ opposition.
‘We knew how tough it would be. Brighton had a good mentality to play,’ the City head coach told BBC Sport.
‘We had a really good first half and had chances. After we missed a really clear chance in the second half they were better.
‘We need to win these sort of games. It is a good lesson for us. Every game will be like this.’
Foden is City’s top scorer this season with eight goals in all competitions and Guardiola waxed lyrical about the youngster after the final whistle.
‘Phil Foden is 20 years old, look at the starts,’ he said.
‘The amount of games, the assists compared to the bigger stars in football.
‘He can play both sides, in the middle as a false nine. He is so clever in front of goal. That is why he deserves to play.’
At his post-match press conference, Guardiola added: ‘He is a guy with a special instinct close to goal.
‘He deserves to play. His standards are higher.’
Guardiola said Foden would be a shoo-in to be selected if he were in charge of England at this summer’s delayed European Championships, given how he’s consistently performed against the Premier League’s top defenders.
‘We cannot forget he’s played versus [Cesar] Azpilicueta and was outstanding, [Aaron] Wan-Bissaska, where everyone struggles, he played really well,’ Guardiola continued.
‘I’m sure he’s going to be selected with me, with Gareth [Southgate], I don’t know.’
The Catalan praised Sterling’s ‘personality’ to take over penalty duties in injury time, with De Bruyne unable to step up due to tiredness.
‘I think Kevin was tired, but I love the personality of Raheem to try it.
‘Next time he will score.’
After a rocky start to the campaign, City’s win means they are now 14 matches unbeaten in all competitions.
Guardiola’s side, sitting third in the table, will hope to close the gap on Manchester United and Liverpool this weekend when they play host to 13th-placed Crystal Palace.
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