Manchester City have extended the gap at the top of the Premier League to four points after Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Watford at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s troops were frustrated throughout the first-half but Sterling took the game by the scruff of the neck with a quickfire brace, the first being a controversial goal, only minutes after the restart. The England winger then secured his hat-trick with a coolly taken finish with an hour on the clock.
Gerard Deulofeu was introduced by Javi Gracia and was only on the pitch a matter of seconds before he pulled a goal back for the Hornets.
Frustration for City
The hosts predictably started on the front foot with Watford stopper Ben Foster being called upon in the opening stages. David Silva went the closest but his headed effort, that looked like it hit his arm, went just wide. Foster then produced another clever stop to halt the Spaniard’s powerful shot.
Another huge chance then came and went as Sergio Aguero, who had scored ten in his previous six goals against the Hornets, latched onto Bernardo Silva’s cross but somehow put his header wide.
It was slowly but surely turning into a frustrating evening for the reigning champions and they could have slipped behind from the penalty spot after Tom Cleverley appeared to trip over Nicolas Otamendi’s outstretched leg in the penalty area. However, the referee was unmoved.
Aguero and Mahrez then set their sights as the first half drew to a close but the Argentine’s shot was palmed away buy Foster whilst the latter sent the ball whistling just wide.
Sterling strikes with quickfire hat-trick to secure the points
It only took 46 seconds for the Citizens to take the lead in the second-half but it was in slightly controversial circumstances. The ball was looped into Aguero and he looked to tee up the offside Sterling. However, Daryl Janmaat’s intervention meant that the England winger was played on side and the ball spun off his knee and nestled into the far corner.
There was no debate about his second only minutes later. Bernardo Silva released Riyad Mahrez down the right-wing and it was an easy task for the Algerian as he rolled the ball across the face of goal for an easy tap-in for Sterling.
Watford looked to be beaten and Sterling added insult to injury as he rounded of a cool treble. He received the ball, cut inside the Watford defence and showed excellent composure to finish underneath Foster.
Substitutions have an impact for Javi Gracia
Watford boss Javi Gracia elected to make changes following the hosts’ third goal as he introduced Troy Deeney and Deulofeu. They had an instant impact as the striker nodded on to the Spaniard and he stabbed the ball underneath Ederson and into the net.
The hosts could have got a fourth as substitute Gabriel Jesus skipped around Foster but a great challenge from Christian Kabasele made sure that the Brazilian was not able to get on the scoresheet.
It mattered not however as Guardiola’s troops bagged victory as they move four points clear of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League
City really did need someone to step up in what was a frustrating game and that is exactly what happened. Sterling was in inspired form and dragged Guardiola’s troops which what would potentially be a crucial win in the pursuit of the Premier League crown.
Manchester City: Ederson (7); Zinchenko (6), Otamendi (7), Kompany (6), Walker (7); B. Silva (7), Gundogan (6), D. Silva (7); Mahrez (7) (Foden (N/A), 90′), Aguero (7) (Jesus (N/A), 80′), Sterling (9) (Sane (6), 65′).
Watford: Foster (7); Femenia (6) (Deulofeu (7), 65′), Britos (7) (Cathcart (N/A), 82′), Kabasele (7), Janmaat (6); Doucoure (6), Cleverley (6), Capoue (6); Masina (6), Success (5) (Deeney (6), 66′), Gray. (6)
Goals: Sterling (46′, 50′, 59′), Deulofeu (66′)
Referee: Paul Tierney
Yellow Cards: Walker (6′), Cleverley (18′)
Red Cards: N/A
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