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Watford 1-2 Manchester City: Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez give Premier League leaders hard-fought win

Leroy Sane scores past Ben Foster

Manchester City’s nervous finish in an otherwise comfortable win at Watford showed “you can never relax in the Premier League”, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

The reigning champions had controlled Tuesday’s game and led through goals from Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez but Abdoulaye Doucoure scrambled in for Watford in the 85th minute to give the hosts hope of an unlikely comeback.

Watford sent goalkeeper Ben Foster forward for set-pieces in a frantic finish, with Guardiola introducing defensive reinforcements to deal with the pressure, but the visitors held on for their seventh successive league win.

The win saw City re-establish their five-point lead at the top of the table, which could be cut to two when Liverpool play Burnley on Wednesday.

“We were much the better side – we deserved to win but you have to kill,” Guardiola said.

“It is never over at 2-0, you need the third goal.

“In the last few minutes they had chances. For five minutes they were better than us.

“You can never relax in the Premier League, that’s why it is nice.”

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Squad depth helps City rumble on

The trip to Vicarage Road was City’s second of 13 matches in 44 days and Guardiola once again rotated his squad, as he did in the weekend win over Bournemouth.

Sergio Aguero remained sidelined with injury, top scorer Raheem Sterling was rested and an entirely different back four was brought in, including captain Vincent Kompany and England defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones.

Mahrez and David Silva were two of those rested at the weekend and both returned and were influential throughout.

Mahrez’s in-swinging cross from the left was bundled in by Sane with his chest in the 40th minute and then the Algerian swept in Gabriel Jesus’ cross at the back post six minutes after half-time for City’s second.

Manchester City celebrate

The league leaders would have added more goals but for the excellence of Foster, who denied Mahrez and Sane when one-on-one in the first half.

He also produced a fine low save to stop Mahrez’s 20-yard shot in the second.

The edgy finish to the game was in stark contrast to the rest of the match when City looked in control, with more than 70% of possession.

The Watford goal came just two minutes after Kompany left the field holding his hamstring, something which will be of concern with the number of games to come in the coming weeks, and suddenly City’s defence looked flustered.

Regardless City held on for their 13th win from 15 games this season and remain unbeaten.

Watford show promise

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Defeat for Watford sees them remain in their slump following an impressive start to the season. They have won just two of their last 11 games, after winning their first four this season.

It is the first time they have lost three consecutive games under Javi Gracia and they now have their lowest points total after 15 games in their four seasons since returning to the top flight.

However there is no greater challenge currently than facing Guardiola’s City and there were positives for Watford.

They had few chances but, at 0-0, City goalkeeper Ederson saved well with his legs from Troy Deeney and they did manage to worry their opponents in the closing stages.

Foster was excellent in goal and while City dominated possession, Watford did not allow themselves to be cut apart and managed to stay in the game.

Gracia told BBC Sport he was “proud” of his players: “You know they always dominate the game and create a lot of chances.

“Ben Foster was amazing, we showed very good spirit until the end and in the last few minutes we had the option to get a better result.

“I am proud of my players, it is difficult to compete with this very good team. We showed character and desire.”

Man of the match – Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez

City’s unbeaten run goes on – the best stats

  • Man City’s goal difference of +38 is the best recorded by an English top-flight team after the first 15 games of a season since Sunderland in 1892-93 (+39).
  • City have scored at least twice in their last nine games against Watford in all competitions, winning all nine by an aggregate score of 29-5.
  • Watford have lost three in a row in the Premier League for the first time since December 2017 under Marco Silva (four games).
  • City have now gone unbeaten in each of their last 21 games in the Premier League (W18, D3) since a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United in April.
  • Riyad Mahrez has scored more Premier League goals versus Watford than against any other team (six).
  • Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure scored his first Premier League goal in 30 appearances since netting versus Southampton in January.

What’s next?

City face third-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (kick-off 17:30 GMT) while Watford travel to Everton on Monday (20:00).

Line-ups

Watford

  • 26Foster
  • 21Femenía
  • 27Kabasele
  • 15Cathcart
  • 25Holebas
  • 14Chalobah Substituted forDeulofeuat 63'minutes
  • 10Success Substituted forGrayat 75'minutes
  • 19Hughes Substituted forQuinaat 52'minutes
  • 16Doucouré
  • 37Pereyra
  • 9Deeney

Substitutes

  • 1Gomes
  • 6Mariappa
  • 7Deulofeu
  • 11Masina
  • 18Gray
  • 20Quina
  • 24Wilmot

Man City

  • 31EdersonBooked at 90mins
  • 2Walker
  • 5Stones
  • 4Kompany Substituted forOtamendiat 83'minutes
  • 18Delph
  • 20Bernardo Silva
  • 25Fernandinho
  • 21Silva Substituted forGündoganat 73'minutes
  • 26Mahrez
  • 33Gabriel Jesus Substituted forLaporteat 89'minutes
  • 19Sané

Substitutes

  • 3Danilo
  • 7Sterling
  • 8Gündogan
  • 14Laporte
  • 30Otamendi
  • 47Foden
  • 49Muric
Referee:
Paul Tierney
Attendance:
20,389

Match Stats

Home TeamWatfordAway TeamMan City
Possession
Home30%
Away70%
Shots
Home11
Away15
Shots on Target
Home7
Away7
Corners
Home3
Away11
Fouls
Home4
Away8

Live Text

Match ends, Watford 1, Manchester City 2.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Watford 1, Manchester City 2.

Offside, Watford. Gerard Deulofeu tries a through ball, but José Holebas is caught offside.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fernandinho.

Attempt blocked. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Andre Gray.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fabian Delph.

Hand ball by Leroy Sané (Manchester City).

Booking

Ederson (Manchester City) is shown the yellow card.

Offside, Watford. Christian Kabasele tries a through ball, but Gerard Deulofeu is caught offside.

Foul by Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City).

Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution

Substitution, Manchester City. Aymeric Laporte replaces Gabriel Jesus.

Attempt saved. Troy Deeney (Watford) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fernandinho.

Goal!

Goal! Watford 1, Manchester City 2. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner.

Attempt blocked. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Andre Gray.

Substitution

Substitution, Manchester City. Nicolás Otamendi replaces Vincent Kompany.

Attempt saved. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ilkay Gündogan.

Fabian Delph (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by José Holebas.

Substitution

Substitution, Watford. Andre Gray replaces Isaac Success.

Attempt saved. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Troy Deeney.

Substitution

Substitution, Manchester City. Ilkay Gündogan replaces David Silva.

Offside, Manchester City. Kyle Walker tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.

Attempt saved. Isaac Success (Watford) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross.

Foul by Leroy Sané (Manchester City).

Kiko Femenía (Watford) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Fernandinho (Manchester City).

Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Riyad Mahrez with a through ball.

Attempt missed. Isaac Success (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Offside, Manchester City. Bernardo Silva tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.

Offside, Manchester City. Ederson tries a through ball, but Leroy Sané is caught offside.

Substitution

Substitution, Watford. Gerard Deulofeu replaces Nathaniel Chalobah.

Attempt missed. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is close, but misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Isaac Success.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.

goal

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