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Dailymall / Sports

Man City 3-1 Watford: Sterling and Aguero net for league leaders

MARTIN SAMUEL AT THE ETIHAD: No doubt you can guess what happened from the scoreline. So here’s an old Ronnie Corbett joke. A bloke goes to his local golf club, to find a stranger looking for a game.


No doubt you can guess what happened from the scoreline. So here’s an old Ronnie Corbett joke.

A bloke goes to his local golf club, to find a stranger looking for a game. The two men agree to play and, on the first tee, the stranger takes out a hockey stick. He addresses the ball and hits it 250 yards down the middle.

From there, he removes a short length of lead piping and chips on. He putts out with a snooker cue, from 20 feet, for birdie. 

This continues all the way round. Pieces of drainpipe, scrap wood, odd bits of metal. At the turn, he’s three under par. Finally, the club member can stand no more. ‘I can’t help noticing,’ he says, ‘the unusual set of clubs you’ve got there. What’s that about?’ 

‘It’s my curse, you see,’ says the stranger. ‘I’m so naturally gifted at everything that I have to make it more of a challenge or I lose interest. If I play tennis, I use a cricket bat. If I play cricket, I use a wooden spoon.’

The member thinks about this for a moment. ‘Can I ask you a question?’ he says. ‘Yes, everyone does,’ replies the stranger. ‘And the answer is: standing up in a hammock.’

And that’s what City are making the league look like this season. Pretty soon, they’ll have to do it standing up in a hammock just to keep from getting bored.

Manchester City continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a comfortable 3-1 win over Watford

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring for City, netting inside the first 40 seconds of Tuesday's Premier League clash

The England international turned home a cross from Leroy Sane to give Pep Guardiola's side the perfect start at the Etihad

Sterling, Sane and playmaker David Silva celebrate the home side's opening goal against Watford on Tuesday evening

City doubled their lead after only 13 minutes of the first half thanks to an own goal from the unfortunate Christian Kabasele

The 26-year-old Belgian defender turned a Kevin De Bruyne cross past the helpless Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal

Sergio Aguero netted a third for the home side on 63 minutes to ensure City's lead at the top of the table is back to 15 points

The Argentina international, 29, has now netted 13 goals for Guardiola's side in the Premier League so far this season

Andre Gray (right) scored for the visitors with eight minutes to go at the Etihad but it proved no more than a consolation

MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCHZONE 

Manchester City (4-1-4-1): 

Ederson 7.5; Walker 7, Stones 6.5 (Danilo 67, 6), Otamendi 6, Delph 6.5; Fernandinho 7 (Toure 71, 6); Sterling 7.5, D Silva 7.5, De Bruyne 8 (B Silva 79), Sane 7.5; Aguero 7

Subs not used: Bravo, Gundogan, Mangala, Zinchenko

Goals: Sterling 1, Kabasele (OG) 13, Aguero 63

Booked: Silva 24  

Manager: Pep Guardiola 7

Watford (4-2-3-1): 

Gomes 6; Janmaat 6, Wague 6, Kabasele 5, Zeegelaar 5; Doucoure 5, Watson 5 (Pereyra 61, 6); Carrillo 6, Capoue 6 (Cleverley 61, 6), Richarlison 6.5 (Sinclair 82); Gray 6

Subs not used: Karnezis, Prodl, Mariappa, Holebas

Manager: Marco Silva 6 

Booked: Pereyra 83 

Ref: Lee Mason 6

Att: 53,556 

RATINGS BY JACK GAUGHAN 

Sterling's opening goal for City came less than 40 seconds after kick off on Tuesday night. For more information and statistics see our brilliant MATCHZONE here.

A goal up in 38 seconds, two up in 13 minutes, three clear soon after the hour, they brushed Watford aside with an ease that made a mockery of talk of blips after two dropped points at Crystal Palace.

Sergio Aguero alone could have had a hat-trick in a 20-minute spell either side of half-time and also hit the bar.

Watford rallied late and even scored their first league goal against Manchester City away since 1988 but it was far too late. The game was long gone. 

Ederson, who was the hero at Palace last time out for City, saves from Gray as Watford try to find a way back into the game

Watford forward Andre Carrillo battles for possession with City and England defender Kyle Walker during the first half

Fabian Delph, returning from a spell out of the side due to injury, fires a left-footed ball up field on Tuesday night

Guardiola dishes out instructions to his City players during their 20th victory in their opening 22 league games this season

City had been in control from the first attack, easing back to a 15-point lead at the top, taking their tally of goals scored against Watford alone in the league this season to nine.

They have played 22 Premier League games now and, still unbeaten, have recorded three goals or more in half of them.

Sloppy defending helped, including an own goal, and Heurelho Gomes finally cracked under the pressure of relentless attacks for the third, but Watford’s frailty should not detract from the confidence of City’s play.

If this was three, not six, it was only because it pays to conserve energy at this stage in the campaign.

Had City needed double this margin for any reason they could probably have found the extra gears to record it.

That the game was still being measured in slivers of a minute when City opened the scoring said it all. It took only those 38 seconds for any residue of negativity from the draw at Crystal Palace to be shaken off, as City returned to form.

Watford are a long way from the team that could have gone top of the league had they beaten City at Vicarage Road on September 16, but even so. It was pretty damn quick — a real statement of intent for those who wondered whether City would be troubled by teams increasingly setting up to thwart and frustrate them.

Watford's Etienne Capoue heads the ball during the first half but his side were two goals behind inside only 15 minutes

John Stones, who missed a glorious chance in the early stages for Guardiola's side, plays a right-footed pass before the break

Medical staff treat Gomes after the Watford goalkeeper injured himself during the first half of Tuesday's league encounter

Germany forward Sane (pictured) was instrumental in City's quick start and set up Sterling for the opener in the first minute

Watford never looked capable of that. City strolled, utterly in command, combatting football’s holiday fatigue in the process.

Pep Guardiola said the festive period was disastrous for players and, irrefutably, it is. Going 2-0 up so early, however, was as near to a seasonal tonic as it gets. As was having Kevin De Bruyne available when he could easily have been kicked out for a month or more by Crystal Palace’s Jason Puncheon on New Years’ Eve.

Having disappeared on a stretcher, he made a surprising recovery to start and with John Stones and David Silva back after injury absences, far from being depleted, City were stronger than they have been for a while.

Stable, too, for the most part. It took Watford a good 20 minutes to gain composure against City’s forwards and by then the game was as good as won.

The opener was effortless. Silva, the man of the match, played a delightful ball inside the full back, a neat cross came from Leroy Sane on the left, with Raheem Sterling left alone to put it in at the far post. It was Sterling’s 14th goal in the Premier League this season and quite why Watford saw no danger in Manchester City’s leading goalscorer is a mystery.

By the time City went two up, they could have led by four.

Sane versus Daryl Janmaat was a mismatch, every involvement a goalscoring opportunity. After five minutes he cut one back to Stones who, despite his status as a defender first, should have scored instead of sending his close-range shot high into the night sky.

Capoue tries to protect the ball as City midfielder Fernandinho looks to win it back for the home side during the first half

Marco Silva's visitors were unable to prevent City from heading into the half-time break well on their way to another victory

Gomes, Watford's stand-in captain in the absence of the banned Troy Deeney, shouts instructions to his team-mates

Mali international Molla Wague tackles City forward Aguero, who led the line in the absence of the injured Gabriel Jesus

Soon after, a Sane cross flew through the six-yard box, ripe for the merest touch to send it goalwards. But none came.

Then Watford caved. Silva slipped the ball into De Bruyne on the right and the Belgian sent a dangerous pass across goal, trapping Christian Kabasele into a panicked attempted clearance to divert the ball past Gomes.

This was De Bruyne’s 10th assist of the season, the first player to reach that number in Europe’s top five leagues.

On it continued. De Bruyne hit the bar with a free-kick after 18 minutes, while a Sterling cross found Aguero just before half-time, his shot surprisingly weak and saved by Gomes.

From the first attack after half- time, he missed with a free header.

Yet it was Gomes who let Aguero in at last, tamely pushing out a cross from De Bruyne in the 63rd minute to allow the striker a simple conversion.

Andre Gray pulled one back for Watford from a cross by Andre Carillo on 82 minutes but by then it was too late as City coasted home.

They will have to raise their game when they play next in the league, against Liverpool at Anfield on January 14, but they are going to have more featherweight encounters like this than grand tests of character.

In that way, winning the league isn’t in the least like standing up in a hammock. 

Watford midfielder Ben Watson, whose goal downed City in the 2013 FA Cup final, tries to hold off the attention of Silva

De Bruyne dribbles with the ball during the second half as Watford's Marvin Zeegelaar tries to track him down at the Etihad

The ex-Sporting Lisbon player attempts to tackle Sterling as City returned to winning ways following a draw against Palace

A couple of City supporters wrap up against the rain ahead of Tuesday night's Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium

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