MAN CITY 4, WATFORD 2
Sergio Aguero’s deadly second-half hat trick spared Manchester City from the embarrassment of losing to Championship club Watford in the FA Cup.
The striker, who has now amassed 25 goals for the season, came to City’s rescue almost single handedly on an afternoon when a giantkilling act looked a distinct possibility.
The Hornets looked on course to cause a massive upset at the Etihad Stadium as they found themselves 2-0 ahead with almost one hour played.
City, who had struggled against a well organised and spirited Watford side, were forced to dig deep before claiming their place in the last 16 thanks to Aguero’s treble and a goal from Aleksandar Kolaraov.
Manuel Pellegrini admitted to being worried by City’s first-half display saying he would have changed 11 players at the break had it been permissible.
City’s manager was happy, however, with the reaction of his players who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
He said: “Of course I was worried because I talked to the players before the match, whether it be the FA, Spanish or Italian Cups, teams play with a lot of motivation. And if you don’t play with 100-per-cent intensity you will not win.
“Watford played with intensity and we were jogging and you cannot win playing like that.
“I didn’t think we would have an easy game, and it is important the players didn’t think it would be an easy game because we were playing a team in the Championship.
“We had a good reaction in the second half and played with another tempo and another pace, the way we have played the whole season.
“The important thing was the reaction to the first half. If I could have changed 11 players, I would have changed all of them. The whole team did not do the things they normally do.”
Pelliegrini brought on defenders Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany at the break saying it was important not to concede a third goal adding they would have been “finished” had they fallen 3-0 behind.
City’s manager also revealed that it was his intention to play Aguero for 60/70 minutes, but City’s plight meant he had to appear for the whole game.
City, who were without the injured Alvaro Negredo and David Silva, made six changes from midweek as Micah Richards, Martin Demichelis, Kolarov, Jack Rodwell, Yaya Toure and Edin Dzeko won recalls.
Costel Pantilimon and Marcos Lopes kept their places from the3-0 win at West Ham in the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi final.
Watford made a bright start and were far from intimidated by playing such illustrious opponents, though there was one early let off when Joleon Lescott blazed over from four yards following a Jesus Navas corner.
And it was no surprise when the buzzing Hornets took a 20th minute lead through Fernando Forestieri following a breakaway.
Cristian Battocchio played a long ball forward and Troy Deeney’s excellent lay off released Forestieri who raced clear to shoot low past Pantilimon.
And it got worse for City when Watford doubled their lead just short of the half hour when Forestieri and Ikechi Anya linked well to set up Troy Deeney who shot low to the right of Pantilimon.
Watford may even have added a third goal when a shot from Daniel Pudil flew into the side netting at the end of a truly awful opening half for City.
City made two changes at the break bringing on Zabaleta and Kompany and pushing centre-back Demichelis into midfield.
And with 12 minutes of the second half played City, still 2-0 down, made their final throw of the dice bringing on striker Stevan Jovetic for Lopes to try and find a route to goal.
City finally made a breakthrough just short of the hour when Edin Dzeko’s shot from a Kolarov cross was well saved by keeper Jonathan Bond only for Aguero to fire home the rebound for his 23rd goal of the season.
Aguero struck again with 12 minutes left to make it 2-2 as he cut in from the right and fired high into the far top corner.
City’s comeback was completed in the 86th minute following an awful mistake from keeper Jonathan Bond who allowed a 35-yard drive from Kolarov to slip through his grasp and trickle over the goalline.
And deep into stoppage time, City added a fourth goal to seal victory as Aguero completed his hat trick with a far post downward header which looped over Bond for his sixth goal in four games since returning from injury.