Pep Guardiola praised his Manchester City players for shrugging off their hangovers after clinching the Premier League title with a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Wednesday to stretch an unbeaten run to 25 matches.
A point was also enough for the Seagulls to guarantee they will finish sixth in the table and secure a place in the Europa League next season.
Phil Foden fired the English champions in front, but Brighton were well worthy of the point given to them by Julio Enciso’s stunning long-range strike.
“Only 48 hours before they drank all the alcohol in Manchester,” said Guardiola. “Today they showed why they are the champions.
“We were humble and run a lot. That is why we are the champions for many years, these players showed something special.”
Guardiola heaped praise on Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi pre-match, hailing the Italian as one of the most influential managers of the last 20 years.
The City coach showed his respect by restoring a number of star names to his side that missed Sunday’s 1-0 win over Chelsea to toast a fourth league title in five years.
Erling Haaland returned among six changes and could have had a seventh hat-trick of the season inside half an hour.
The towering Norwegian headed over Foden’s inviting cross on five minutes.
Haaland then had a poor touch to blame for not beating Jason Steele when clean through on goal.
At the third time of asking he took no chances as Haaland unselfishly squared with just Steele to beat for Foden to convert his 15th goal of the season.
But after a slow start, Brighton soon began to live up to Guardiola’s billing as the champions were rocked back on their heels.
“In every situation, even when the situation was difficult, we didn’t lose our style,” said De Zerbi.
Danny Welbeck‘s free-kick came crashing off the bar and Facundo Buonanotte should have done better with his finish after sauntering through the City defence.
Kaoru Mitoma also saw an equaliser ruled out for handball.
But there was no stopping Enciso’s leveller when it did come as the Paraguayan picked up Levi Colwill‘s pass and smashed an effort into the top corner for his first goal at the Amex.
Brighton had the ball in the net for a third time in the first 45 minutes moments later only for Welbeck to be flagged offside from Mitoma’s pass.
The second period was less filled with goalmouth action despite the electric pace of the game.
Haaland thought he finally had his 53rd goal of the season when he headed home Cole Palmer‘s cross 15 minutes from time.
But a VAR review caught out City’s prolific number nine as he had pulled Colwill’s shirt to create the space for a free header.
Tempers briefly flared on the touchline after that decision with Guardiola shown a yellow card by the referee.
There were also minor injury concerns for City ahead of the FA Cup and Champions League finals next month as Phil Foden, John Stones and Bernardo Silva were not moving freely as they were replaced in the second half.
“We have to be careful for the players to arrive to the finals as best as possible,” added Guardiola.
But it was all smiles at the end as Guardiola and De Zerbi shared a warm embrace of mutual admiration after the full-time whistle.