WATFORD 1, MANCHESTER CITY 2
Goals either side of half time by Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez put Manchester City into the lead at Watford but they had to survive a late scare after Abdoulaye Doucoure scored a late goal before securing the points.
At 41 points for the season in just 15 games – five points ahead of Liverpool – the title race could hinge on results like this after City recorded a seventh straight Premier League win.
Pep Guardiola rotated his side for the second of 13 matches in 44 days. With Sergio Aguero not travelling following a muscular problem the Spaniard made six changes following Saturday’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth.
Aymeric Laporte had been an ever-present in the Premier League for City this season but he was rested for the first time in the league this term while Oleksandr Zinchenko joined Aguero on the sidelines following a facial injury.
Danilo, Laporte, Zinchenko, Nicolas Otamendi, Raheem Sterling, and Ilkay Gundogan stepped down as Guardiola replaced his entire back four.
Kyle Walker, John Stones, Vincent Kompany, Fabian Delph, David Silva, and Riyad Mahrez came into the team.
Somehow Watford survived an early City onslaught to find themselves in with a chance of taking the lead against a team that had only been behind for 12 minutes this season.
Watford should have taken the lead after 32 minutes when Troy Deeney found himself in space with only Ederson to beat.
Isaac Success’ cross was headed back across the area by Roberto Pereyra. The ball fell for Doucoure who chested it and hooked it towards the six yard box where Deeney anticipated the looping ball, eluded Fernandinho to create space for a shot from just outside the six yard box but his shot was saved by Ederson.
City had already been thwarted several times by Ben Foster in the Watford goal, with Leroy Sane, Stones, Bernardo Silva, and Riyad Mahrez making Foster work.
City should have home and dry by the time they finally notched a deserved opening goal five minutes before half time.
David Silva’s attempt to bundle the ball past Foster was denied but Mahrez picked out Sane with a cross from the rebound and the German chested the ball in past Foster from 6 yards out.
Watford conceded a second goal just six minutes after the restart when Mahrez buried the ball past Foster after City pulled Watford apart and Gabriel Jesus’ cross found the Algerian in the area to record his seventh goal of the season.
Jesus headed over and also wasted a superb Mahrez pass, sending the ball wide, as City sought to put the game to bed with a third goal.
David Silva was given a well earned rest after running the game, replaced by Gundogan, and Ederson saved comfortably from Doucoure with Watford showing signs of life despite the strangulation of possession by City.
Vincent Kompany limped off to be replaced by Nicolas Otamendi, making his 100th Premier League appearance for City, but rather than seeing the game out easily City allowed their hosts back into the game.
Watford snatched a goal with five minutes remaining to give the home side hope after Delph lost the ball.
The Hornets counter attacked and Gerard Deulofeu crossed from the left and Doucoure beat Ederson on the third attempt.
The pressure was on and Jose Holebas found Troy Deeney whose header was weak as Watford threw everything at City.
Jesus was sacrificed for Laporte who was brought on to shore up City’s wobbling defence with Watford urged on by their vociferous supporters but they could not score the equaliser.
At least City fans no longer have to worry about relegation this season.