Watford 0, Manchester City 4
Raheem Sterling scored twice in the first half as Manchester City got over their FA Cup hangover with a strong win to leave Watford teetering on the edge of the relegation zone.Embed from Getty Images
City won 4-0 to record four consecutive Premier League wins for the first time this season as Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte completed the rout to make it 37 goals for and 3 against in the last seven games against Watford for the Blues.
The 12-0 aggregate win over the Hornets over their two games this season was the largest in the top flight since 1948/49 when Arsenal beat Grimsby by the same margin.
It could have been worse for the Hornets, with caretaker manager Hayden Mullins in charge after Nigel Pearson was surprisingly sacked at the weekend, as VAR decided not to award penalties against Adrian Mariappa and Kiko Femenia for second half handballs while Gabriel Jesus had a goal chalked off for offside.
Watford were saved from a proper drubbing by an inspired Ben Foster performance, with the veteran ‘keeper making several fine saves which may yet be the difference for Watford’s hopes of staying up.
City boss Pep Guardiola made four changes from the side which lost to Arsenal at Wembley with Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Foden, and Bernardo Silva coming into the side for Benjamin Mendy, Ilkay Gundogan, David Silva, and Riyad Mahrez.
City looked more dynamic with Cancelo providing width down the left but for all their early possession the Blues were finding it hard to carve the Hornets open as they did at the Etihad in the reverse fixture in September when they hammered eight goals past them.
For a time in this contest the lingering fear of another shock defeat on the road for City began to emerge again.
Ederson’s mighty kicking put the ball out of Vicarage Road at one point while De Bruyne’s set pieces were still below par as City struggled to convert their possession into real chances on goal.
Rodri’s shot deflected off the back of Gabriel Jesus but the looping ball was still goalbound until Ben Foster acrobatically tipped it away after 11 minutes as City underlined their early dominance.
Shots by Sterling and Foden were blocked as Watford survived until the drinks break in the 22nd minute.
The flood gates did open eventually through, and Raheem Sterling controlled Kyle Walker’s cross from the right before slotting the ball past Ben Foster from 12 yards for his 28th goal of the season.
Raheem Sterling scores as Manchester City hit 12 against Watford this season
Will Hughes tripped Sterling as he raced into the area following a slide rule pass from Foden after 39 minutes, with the winger tucking away the rebound after his smashed spot kick was saved one-handed by Foster to hit his 29th goal this term.
Jesus was denied by Foster shortly after the restart as a sloppy pass back was snatched up by the Brazilian and City put Watford under immense pressure with a followup by Foden blocked and Bernardo Silva’s shot blocked by Adrian Mariappa with his hands.
VAR decided not to call for another penalty, and one against Kiko Femenia later in the half, and Foster also tipped away a goalbound effort by Sterling as City looked to put the game to bed quickly.
Foster tipped over a well struck De Bruyne free kick after 61 minutes as the Belgian get into his stride.
De Bruyne’s pass found Sterling in space, the winger’s shot was saved by Foster only for the loose ball to fall to Foden who volleyed it home from six yards out with 63 minutes gone for his eighth goal of the season.
De Bruyne finally bagged his 19th Premier League assist of the season – one behind record holder Thierry Henry – when his free kick was headed home by Laporte for the Frenchman’s first goal of the season after 66 minutes.
Jesus lobbed Foster but saw the ball go wide after a long pass from Eric Garcia while substitute Oleksandr Zinchenko hit traffic as he found himself in a shooting position.
Danny Welbeck had replaced the injured Troy Deeney and had one chance to deny Ederson a clean sheet but a poor final touch as he shaped to hoot allowed the Brazilian enough time to intercept the ball before he could shoot.
City had their chances to get the fifth but the Hornets considered themselves lucky not to concede a fifth, twice fouling Foden as he tried to get the drop on them.
Jesus’ injury time header looked to have made it 5 for City from Cancelo’s cross but it was rightly disallowed off for offside right at the end of a satisfying win for the Blues.
GOALS – Watford 0, Manchester City 4
Watford 0, Man City 1: 31. Raheem Sterling controlled Kyle Walker’s cross from the right before slotting the ball past Ben Foster from 12 yards for his 28th goal of the season.
Watford 0, Man City 2: 40. Raheem Sterling put away the rebound from his own penalty after Ben Foster guessed right, diving to his right at a decent height, and palmed it away.
Watford 0, Man City 3: 63. Phil Foden volleyed home an easy tap-in from 6 yards following Ben Foster’s super save to deny Raheem Sterling a hat trick after Kevin De Bruyne found him.
Watford 0, Man City 4: 66. Aymeric Laporte’s header from Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick went into the ground and beat Ben Foster.
MATCH STATS – Watford 0, Manchester City 4
Watford: Foster, Mariappa, Kabasele, Dawson, Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure (Chalobah 82), Hughes, Sarr, Deeney (Welbeck 67), Pereyra (Masina 87)
Watford Subs Not Used: Gomes, Cathcart, Pedro, Gray, Quina, Pussetto
Booking: Mariappa (shirt pull on Phil Foden, 80); Hughes (shirt pull on Phil Foden, 90+1)
Man City: Ederson, Walker (Zinchenko 64), Garcia, Laporte (Stones 74), Cancelo, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Foden, Sterling (Mahrez 64), Jesus
Man City Subs Not Used: Carson, Gundogan, David Silva, Mendy, Fernandinho, Otamendi
Goals: Sterling 41, 40; Foden 63; Laporte 66
Referee: Michael Oliver