EPL

Man City set top-flight win record with Watford thrashing

By Sports Desk September 21, 2019

Manchester City set a new club record for their biggest top-flight win with an 8-0 thrashing of Watford on Saturday.

City led in the first minute when David Silva was set up by Kevin De Bruyne, with the champions maintaining their frantic early scoring pace to go 5-0 up inside 18 minutes.

That in itself was a Premier League record, but City could not quite manage to equal the competition’s biggest ever win, Manchester United's 9-0 defeat of Ipswich Town in 1995.

Bernardo Silva hit a hat-trick as City impressively bounced back from a shock loss at the hands of injury-hit Norwich City last time out in league action.

The emphatic result boosts their goal difference to +18 and moves them within two points of leaders Liverpool, who are away to Chelsea on Sunday.

As for bottom club Watford – who replaced Javi Gracia with Quique Sanchez Flores earlier this month – they will have to reflect on their heaviest defeat ever in league competition.

City also humiliated Watford in last season's FA Cup final, running out 6-0 winners with Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling each scoring a brace at Wembley.

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    Bernardo Silva had just set up the opening goal for Manchester City with a sumptuous cross – a suggestion that last season's form might be starting to return.

    But this was no time for the Portugal playmaker to rest on his laurels and he set about harassing Crystal Palace left-winger Jeffrey Schlupp, whose pass towards the danger zone where specialist centre-backs should reside was intercepted.

    Rodri's outing in the heart of the City defence was unexpected and frequently uneasy during the early stages at Selhurst Park. A slip momentarily left Wilfried Zaha unattended before a rushed, hacked clearance went unpunished.

    Pep Guardiola deployed his two defensive midfield commanders. Rodri and Fernandinho, in defence due to Nicolas Otamendi joining Aymeric Laporte in the treatment room and John Stones not yet being match fit following an ailment of his own. City entered the field eight points behind Liverpool in the title race, with the decision not to replace Vincent Kompany starting to look season defining.

    But if being the last line of protection against attacks does not come naturally to Rodri, he specialises in starting them. His interception from Schlupp doubled as an expertly cushioned pass to David Silva and City were away.

    Kompany's successor as club captain deposited the ball at Kevin De Bruyne's feet in unfussy, one-touch fashion. Where the 2-0 loss to Wolves played out under a fug of doubt and laboured decision making, the whirring cogs of Guardiola's machine were clicking into place.

    De Bruyne promptly pushed down the accelerator, powering through midfield. The Belgium star, who did not start either of City's league defeats in the opening eight games, had already proved a menace to Palace. His twinkling triangle on the right flank alongside Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo providing a persistent first half threat.

    A great gift of De Bruyne's, a player on record as saying her prefers assists to goals, is he knows when to slip from leading man to supporting character. He found the opening goalscorer Gabriel Jesus.

    The Brazil striker's scruffy diving header a little over a minute earlier was his fifth in as many starts for City this season. But the presence on the bench of club-record goalscorer Sergio Aguero – a man not so clinical behind the wheel on the road to training going off this week's evidence – means Jesus must always strive, always prove himself and always make the decision to please his manager.

    A pass to the buccaneering Benjamin Mendy was just that. Fit again, for now, the left-back and his ravaged knees provides Guardiola with an extra dimension he will need if a third Premier League title in succession can be achieved despite early arrears.

    Mendy's touch was heavy but he was fortunate to see the ball fall to Raheem Sterling, Manchester City's sure thing.

    Goals 12 and 13 of the season for club and country came as England routed Bulgaria in midweek, Sterling revelling in tormenting those who send vile abuse his way.

    An inspirational figure with improvement still in him – as evidenced by a couple of second-half attempts against Palace – Sterling's chipped pass over the top of the home defence was a string on his bow drawing the sweetest sound.

    It was a pass worthy of David Silva, who on this occasion watched the whole picture unfold and found himself on the end of it. For all their discomfort over the early weeks of this campaign, operating without their long-time creator and magician will really sting City this time next year.

    His clinical over-the-shoulder volley through Wayne Hennessey's legs was equal to many of his finest moments over a wonderful decade in the Premier League and crowned a little masterpiece. 2-0 was enough for the three points.

    Second-half wastefulness and Ederson's athletic stops from Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha showed City will have to be sharper in their next Premier League away game. That's at Anfield next month, but after talking about putting his players in the fridge over Christmas, Guardiola will have seen enough in a cool, calculated gem of a goal to suggest there is life in this title race.

  • Guardiola wants to see a more clinical Man City despite coasting at Palace Guardiola wants to see a more clinical Man City despite coasting at Palace

    Pep Guardiola thinks Manchester City can still be more clinical, despite seeing his side produce a largely comfortable 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

    Gabriel Jesus and David Silva scored within 93 seconds of one another with the first half drawing to a close at Selhurst Park, the second a particularly fine effort as Raheem Sterling producied a memorable assist.

    In truth, City might have been far more comfortable winners, with Sterling, Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne guilty of missing presentable second-half chances.

    "We enjoyed the second goal - it was nice. But in the Premier League we have to score the third and fourth because it was difficult in the end with the pressure," Guardiola told BBC Sport.

    "If [Christian] Benteke scores to make it 2-1, then it's difficult. The only problem is we could not score the third one. We deserved it but have to be more clinical."

    City produced a fine riposte to a 2-0 defeat at home to Wolves prior to the international break to cut the gap to Liverpool to five points ahead of the unbeaten Premier League leaders' trip to Manchester United on Sunday.

    Guardiola hopes the victory is the start of another run for his defending champions.

    "Hopefully we can start from here and continue our good performance," he added. "Their keeper made a lot of saves but hopefully we can be more clinical."

    City started the match with a makeshift centre-back pairing of Fernandinho and Rodri, who performed well at the heart of the visitors' defence.

    He said: "Our build-up was quicker because they have more intelligence and they pass the ball so well because they are central midfielders.

    "The season is too long, everybody is going to play. It's another option we have."

    Roy Hodgson had no qualms over the result but rued the fact Palace conceded the goals in such quick succession.

    "I thought they worked unbelievably hard, we came across a Man City side in top form, I thought their pressure was excellent they gave us literally no time on the ball whatsoever," he said.

    "It was unlucky the two goals came so close after the other, had we got in 1-0, who knows? I've no complaints over the result. 

    "I'm proud of the way we kept fighting, we never dropped the heads or gave up and could have come up with a goal on our sheet."

    Benteke almost brought Palace back into the game with his first touch, but saw his thumping header brilliantly tipped on to the bar by Ederson as his wait for a maiden Palace goal of the campaign continued.

    "It would have been a great moment for him. It was such a good header and I don't know how the keeper kept it out," Hodgson added.

    "I was thinking, 'Oh great, Christian's got off the mark with a great goal against the champions'. But hopefully he can still take confidence from that and take that into the next games."

  • It's nothing to do with us - Pochettino explains VAR confusion over Alli equaliser It's nothing to do with us - Pochettino explains VAR confusion over Alli equaliser

    Mauricio Pochettino felt sympathy towards Watford following confusion over the outcome of a VAR check for Tottenham's late equaliser on Saturday.

    The Premier League's bottom club led 1-0 away at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for much of the contest following Abdoulaye Doucoure's sixth-minute strike.

    Watford also had a strong appeal for a penalty dismissed following a review – Gerard Deulofeu going down following a sliding challenge from Jan Vertonghen – before Spurs levelled in the closing stages.

    Dele Alli capitalised on a collision between visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster and substitute Kiko Femenia, though VAR was required to see if the scorer had used his arm to control the ball before finishing with his left foot.

    The decision initially flashed up as 'no goal' on the big screen – despite the score on display changing to 1-1 – but Pochettino confirmed the misunderstanding was down to the Premier League, rather than a Spurs employee. He was also adamant the right call was made in the end, insisting Alli had used his shoulder and not his arm.

    "It's nothing to do with us, it's dependent on the Premier League. We don't manage that situation," he told the media.

    "But, of course, I understand that it was a little bit confusing and it was tough for Quique [Sanchez Flores], because he thought it was no goal. 

    "But it's not Tottenham's responsibility, it's the Premier League's responsibility and of course like everyone, maybe the guy who pressed the button made a mistake. Everyone can make a mistake. 

    "The most important thing is when you check the goal, it was a goal, it came off his shoulder and I think it was legal. But I can understand that for Watford, Quique and their players, I feel so, so bad."

    Tottenham needed a helping hand to grab a point after another below-par display, the result following on from back-to-back defeats prior to the international break.

    Pochettino hopes his squad can now begin to turn the corner following a difficult spell.

    "It was so important in the way that we achieved the point in the end, the team was fighting, we showed character," the former Southampton boss said. 

    "We have quality but when you are in this type of situation the most important thing is the character you need to show. Talent comes after, you need to fight and you need to run and you need to be strong in your mind.

    "When everything is good you fly, when everything is going against you you need to be so strong and you spend a lot of energy because every single action you expect to score or create a chance.

    "This is the first step to build our confidence again."

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