EPL

Eight goals, a hat-trick, an early sub and tumbling records - Clockwatch of Watford's mauling by Manchester City

By Sports Desk September 21, 2019

The good news for Watford is, in the league at least, they do not have to face Manchester City again until next May.

The 6-0 defeat against Pep Guardiola's side in last season's FA Cup final was a truly humbling experience but, frankly, it almost looked respectable by comparison when City scored their fifth inside the opening 18 minutes on Saturday, on the way to an 8-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

Records were set and Bernardo Silva went home with the matchball after grabbing a hat-trick on an afternoon when City celebrated their 125th anniversary.

City have seen few football games quite like this one when, in truth, things could have been even worse for poor Watford.

Here is how the game unfolded:

0:52 – Watford's task quickly became one of the steeply uphill variety when David Silva was on hand to convert a delightful Kevin De Bruyne cross from close range to make it 1-0 inside a minute. City's opener is the quickest goal scored in the Premier League this season.

3:29 – If such a contest can have a 'Sliding Doors' moment, this was it. Gerard Deulofeu embarrassed Nicolas Otamendi by skipping around the Argentina defender's challenge and Ederson was on hand with excellent reaction to preserve City's lead.

6:17 – There was not so much to enjoy about the goalkeeping at the other end a few moments later. Ben Foster needlessly felled Riyad Mahrez, and Sergio Aguero converted a penalty to make it 2-0 with his 100th Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium.

11:20 – Mahrez got in on the act by sending a free-kick past Foster courtesy of a deflection off Tom Cleverley. The midfielder stood apart from the edge of the Watford wall and diverted the ball into his own net with his face for 3-0.

14:07 – When Bernardo Silva scores an unmarked, stooping header from a corner, it's a sure fire sign your afternoon has gone awry. Watford's defenders appeared to have no interest whatsoever in marking the Portugal playmaker when he extended the lead to 4-0 from Otamendi's flick-on.

17:04 – No team has ever taken a quicker 5-0 lead in a Premier League game. Watford switched off as David Silva took a quick free-kick and Aguero squared for his fellow Argentinian Otamendi to slide home.

26:32 – De Bruyne unlocked the Hornets again and Aguero rattled a shot against the post from the edge of the area.

32:48 – Spare a thought for Dimitri Foulquier – the Watford debutant who was unceremoniously hauled off. During the time it took City to score five goals, he completed two passes.

43:12 – A combination of the post and Foster denied Aguero. Inevitably, De Bruyne supplied the ammunition.

45:00 (+3) – Half-time. Three minutes of added time meant City were 5-0 up at the interval having not scored for half an hour.

47:59 – City left-back Angelino came on for his Premier League debut at the break and it was soon 6-0. Will Hughes' poor defensive header and cute work from David and Bernardo Silva left the latter with a simple finish.

53:24 – Joao Cancelo replaced Kyle Walker. Sure, why not bring on the most expensive right-back of all time?

59:46 – De Bruyne's cross for 7-0 was so good Bernardo Silva could clumsily tread on the ball and still complete a maiden career treble. City now had Manchester United's Premier League record 9-0 win over Ipswich Town in their sights.

65:21 – Mahrez charged in at the back post to plant a header from Angelino's cross against the crossbar.

84:01 – Fittingly, given how he masterfully orchestrated proceedings, De Bruyne's fabulous strike into the top corner capped Watford's punishment at 8-0 – the biggest top-flight win in City's history and the Hornets' heaviest league defeat.

87:47 – City's brilliant Belgian, De Bruyne, probably should have equalled the Premier League record but dragged his shot wide at the end of a slaloming solo run.

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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.

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    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."

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    Dead is 22-year-old Leonardo Murray,now a customer service representative on the Western side of the island, Montego Bay.

    According to reports, Murray was in a vehicle that was sprayed with bullets, killing him and injuring a 36-year-old woman who is set to surivive the attack.

    Another former Cornwall College student, Craig Oates, remembers Murray, otherwise known as ‘Nardo’, as a talented player and wondered about somebody killing him.

    “It is yet another sad chapter in the life of Montego Bay. It is hard to understand why anyone would kill a promising youngster like this,” said Oates in The Observer, a Jamaican newspaper.

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    The shooter, apparently hopped back into his vehicle and drove away.

    The police were called and found Murray and his female companion suffering from gunshot wounds.

    The two were rushed to the Cornwall Regional Hospital where Murray was pronounced dead and the woman was admitted in serious condition.

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