Manchester City saw off a resilient Watford on Tuesday night despite the Hornets providing a late scare for the champions. The result sees City now unbeaten in 21 matches over all competitions as they continue to dominate and impress.
Leroy Sane had the chance to put the Sky Blues up just 11 minutes in, as he broke away with only Ben Foster to beat. A poor touch inside the 18-yard box though saw Foster make one of his seven saves on the day. On the 40th minute however, it was Sane who put the Citizens ahead as he exquisitely took the ball on his chest from a Mahrez cross to put the ball beyond Foster.
Guardiola had made six changes ahead of the midweek fixture and it was one of those changes in Riyad Mahrez who put his side two goals to the good. After some clever build-up play, Gabriel Jesus found the Algerian all alone who was never going to miss. It was not game over though as Watford continued to press and look for a breakthrough and they were rewarded on the 85th minute as Abdoulaye Doucoure scrambled home to cut the lead in half. This forced Guardiola to introduce Aymeric Laporte and despite the late scare, City saw the game out with Pep stating his team ‘have to learn’ from what happened in the final stages of the match.
Watford remain positive after loss
It’s been a difficult period for the Hornets who started the season in “golden” fashion, yet after four losses in their last five games, they have slowly dropped down the table. “I’m very proud of the effort of my players because I know it is very difficult to compete against this team when you are losing and when you try to press a little bit higher, they find the space and they are really dangerous, but I think my players today deserve the recognition,” said Javi Gracia in his post-game interview.
The Spaniard was forced into making a change ahead of the game, as Nathaniel Chalobah replaced Etienne Capoue who was unavailable due to his red card at Leicester. The formation also saw a change from a 4-4-2 into a 4-1-4-1, with Troy Deeney leading the attacking and Gerard Deulofeu dropping to the bench with Will Hughes moving into a more central role in order to help control the pitch and possession.
Similar to their recent outings, Watford played well for periods of the match and caused City a few headaches throughout. Moving forward into the festive period, Gracia maintains a positive approach though, “I think now we have a lot of games and with all the squad ready I have different options to chose and to try to choose the best.”
Man of the match performance from Foster
“When I came to London I thought Big Ben was in the city but no, he is in Watford for us,” said Javi Gracia after the 2-0 loss. Foster made a permanent move to Vicarage Road in July 2018 after 172 games for West Brom Albion.
This year, his experience and leadership on the pitch has been invaluable for a young Watford team. “There are a lot of teams that would have probably lost by five or six because City are that good. We kept going and that is what we will take from it,” said Foster.
“I am proud of the team, to be honest with you. I think when you play against City it is always very easy to go a couple behind and let the floodgates open. We got the goal towards the end and kept them clinging on for it.” His performance against City kept Watford in the game, as has been the case over much of the season. The Hornets have kept just three clean sheets on the season but Foster, as well as the whole defence, has improved considerably since last years campaign.
Will City be stopped?
While Man City have been dominant since the beginning of the season, against Watford there was a different vibe around the game. Obviously the stronger of the two clubs, City were unable to see the game out and Guardiola was forced into making late changes to pick up three points.
The Citizens have now conceded in four of their last five outings and despite outscoring their hosts on Tuesday, there were nervy moments at the back. It is their attacking outfit though as to why they are having no problems picking up three points. Having now scored 45 goals, the attacking unit is different class and even with Sergio Aguero missing, they can still pick up important results and victories.
“Once you concede with five to 10 minutes left you suffer, we didn’t get the third goal which we needed. We had the chances to kill the game but we missed and that is what it is,” said Guardiola in his post-game comments. “It is never over at 2-0, you need the third goal. We were much the better side, we deserved to win but you have to kill. In the last few minutes, they had chances.”
While Watford missed early chances, City showed the resilience they have had since starting the season and now face a tougher challenge this coming weekend with a trip to Stamford Bridge and Chelsea. Nobody has yet been able to beat City but are invincible? We shall see about that one.