Manchester City mover four points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a hard-fought and controversial win against Watford. A second-half hat trick from Raheem Sterling secured the points and a six straight league win, although the Hornets pulled a goal back through substitute Gerard Deulofeu, who had only just come onto the pitch.
It was another vital win in the race for the title and kept the pressure firmly on Liverpool, but the blues were made to work hard to break the stubborn Watford defence, despite the visitors prioritising nest week’s FA Cup Quarter Final with Crystal Palace and making seven key changes.
There were fears the off-field distractions would affect the City players, with both UEFA and the Premier League joining FIFA and the FA in launching separate investigations into City’s financial affairs and academy recruitment, as well as rumours manager Pep Guardiola has agreed to take over at Juventus next season. And it looked like those fears would be realised when the two teams went in goalless at the break, a chorus of boos ringing out around the Etihad, more for the officials than the players.
The blues needed a stroke of luck to finally break Watford’s resistance and it duly came a minute into the second half. Sterling was clearly offside as Aguero chested the ball to him, but defender Daryl Janmaat’s attempted clearance struck Sterling and rebounded into the Watford goal. The linesman initially flagged for offside, but after consultation with the referee, the goal was given.
There was no doubt about Sterling’s second goal four minutes later as the unmarked winger met Riyad Mahrez’s cross to tap home and give City a bit of breathing space. Nine minutes later, Sterling completed his hat-trick with a good bit of individual skill. It was David Silva’s pass that released Sterling and the England man beat two Watford defenders to score his 18th goal of another impressive season.
Watford pulled a goal back seven minutes later through a Deulofeu strike, and although the Hornets rallied, there wasn’t much chance of a comeback and the blues moved four points clear and will be watching Liverpool’s home game with Burnley with interest.
It’s another example of the blues showing the form of champions, finding a way past stubborn teams whose only intention is to try and stifle the blues attack and offer nothing in return. Can the blues keep this incredible form up until the end of the season?
Next up for the blues is Schalke on Tuesday night as they attempt to reach the quarter final of the Champions League, before travelling to Swansea on Saturday for their FA Cup quarter final clash.
Final Score: Manchester City 3-1 Watford
Goals: Sterling (46, 50, 59)