Manchester City hold off Watford fightback to move five points clear
Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez were on target for Pep Guardiola’s men.
Manchester City survived a late fightback from Watford to claim a 2-1 victory and move five points clear at the summit of the Premier League.
Leroy Sane opened the scoring for the visitors shortly before half-time, with Riyad Mahrez doubling their advantage after 51 minutes.
Abdoulaye Doucoure bundled the ball over the line with five minutes remaining to ensure a nervy conclusion for Pep Guardiola’s side, but the champions held firm to secure their seventh consecutive Premier League win, and put the pressure firmly back on Liverpool, who travel to Burnley on Wednesday.
City’s match at Vicarage Road was their second of 13 in the space of just 44 days, and Guardiola made six changes from the team that won against Bournemouth on Saturday, with top scorer Raheem Sterling dropping to the bench.
The changes in personnel however, had little effect on Guardiola’s well-oiled machine, and only the brilliance of Ben Foster ensured City didn’t head into the interval with more than a one-goal advantage.
First, Foster denied Sane after 11 minutes. Roberto Pereyra gave the ball away to the super-quick German international who charged down on Foster’s goal.
Sane attempted a dink, but Foster stuck out his left glove, and turned the ball away for a corner.
Minutes later, Foster was called upon again, producing a fine treble save, first from Mahrez, then smothering Bernado Silva’s effort, before kicking the ball away from the feet of David Silva.
It was desperate and heroic in equal measure, and Foster then had to be on alert again to prevent Gabriel Jesus from beating him at his near post.
The hosts were firmly on the back foot, but after 32 minutes, a fine save from Ederson denied Troy Deeney.
Doucoure lobbed the ball over his head to find Deeney, whose side-footed effort was turned away by Ederson.
The Brazilian dived the wrong way, but kept the ball out with his legs.
Normal order was restored just eight minutes later, however, when Sane made the breakthrough.
Mahrez whipped the ball in from City’s right-hand side, and Foster saved from David Silva, but the ball fell to Mahrez again, and this time, the Algerian found Sane at the back post, who chested the ball past Foster, and into the back of the net.
City have won all 18 of their games in which they have led at half-time, and Mahrez looked to have made sure of the points six minutes after the interval.
Sane, Bernado Silva and Jesus were all involved on City’s left-hand side, with the latter finding Mahrez unmarked, and the former Leicester winger made no mistake with a cool finish.
City were in complete control, as the oles rang out from the visiting section on the hour mark.
But, to their credit, Watford did not give up, and Doucoure tested Ederson with 15 minutes remaining before scoring in the closing minutes.
Ederson saved at the feet of Andre Gray following a cross from Gerard Deulofeu, but Doucoure was on hand to get the ball over the line.
Watford went in search of what would have been the most unlikely of equalisers, but it was City who took the three points, and the league leaders will now bid to extend their winning run when they travel to Chelsea on Saturday evening.