Hornets powerless to stop Man City juggernaut from rolling them over once more
Watford (0) 1 Hernandez 74
Man City (2) 3 Sterling 4, Silva 31, 63
After the exhilaration of putting Man United to the sword and giving Chelsea a scare, Man City administered an all-too familiar cold dose of reality to the Hornets.
This was by no means the drubbing it threatened to be at one stage – such was City’s dominance – but the result was never seriously in doubt.
For Watford fans, this has been a real hide-behind-the-sofa fixture. A litany of horror stories where a record-equaling FA Cup final defeat of 6-0 wasn’t even the worst loss.
Among the 50 goals netted in 13 consecutive wins in the past eight years was an 8-0 triumph for Pep Guardiola’s men in September 2019.
There never seemed much prospect of reversing that trend on this cold night at Vicarage Road. City, two goals to the good before the break, strolled it.
For the most part, it was a numbing experience for Watford. Deprived of the ball in a slow death by a thousand triangles. Mastery of the ball left City in total control and they leap back to the top of the table after this win.
Straight away there was danger for Watford, with only Joao Pedro’s nod off the line keeping out an Aymeric Laporte header.
Within a few seconds of that opening salvo, Phil Foden crossed to an unmarked Raheem Sterling and the England striker had the simple task of nodding home from a few yards.
Daniel Bachmann stretched to his right to turn aside another effort from Sterling. Jack Grealish had a free header at a corner which went straight to the grateful keeper.
Further slick City moves could and should have inflicted greater damage on the hosts.
Spirits were lifted slightly by a thrusting charge from Moussa Sissoko from his own half after he had broken free of two close markers. Even if nothing came of it, the captain’s example was very welcomed.
Emmanuel Dennis nearly caught out Ederson with a near-post shot after cutting in from the right flank and a bit of collective harrying gave Sissoko another chance to fire at goal.
Moments later, though, the jig already looked up when Bernardo Silva squeezed in goal number two from a tight angle – following up to calmly finish the job after an initial effort from Ilkay Gundogan (Silva supplying the pass) had been well stopped by Bachmann.
“City, tearing Watford apart, again,” chanted the away fans.
More goals looked inevitable. Sterling bore down on Bachmann in a lightning break out and the keeper did well to deny the winger. The over-worked stopper also got down well to touch a Foden drive onto a post.
He could do nothing about the third goal which eventually beat him, however. Silva, drifting to the right edge of the penalty area, cut inside onto his left foot and bent a glorious shot into the far top corner.
Would there be more pain? It looked that way when Grealish’s deflected strike bounced onto the top of the crossbar, but it was Watford who got on the scoresheet next.
Half-time Sub Cucho Hernandez, fed by Kiko Femenia from the right, tucked home at the second attempt – his first shot rolling back to him across the face of goal after cannoning off the far post.
And we might even have had a big finish had Josh King not put a good chance just wide after being set up by the busy Hernandez. But that would have defied the logic of all that had gone before it.
Hornets: (4-1-4-1) Bachmann – Femenia, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Rose (Ngakia 71) – Louza (Hernandez h/t) – Dennis, Cleverley (Kucka h/t), Sissoko, Joao Pedro – King. Subs not used: Elliot, Gosling, Fletcher, Tufan, Kabasele, Morris
City: (4-3-3) Ederson – Walker, Ruben Dias, Laporte, Cancelo – Gundogan (De Bruyne 67), Rodri, Bernardo Silva – Sterling, Foden (Jesus 75), Grealish (Mahrez 67). Subs not used: Steffen, Carson, Stones, Ake, Jesus, Zinchenko, Fernandinho