EPL: Manchester City 2 - 0 Watford
Raheem Sterling scored the first Premier League goal of his Manchester City career in a 2-0 victory over Watford as Manuel Pellegrini’s men achieved a new club record of 10 consecutive wins.
Sterling’s close-range strike just after half-time broke a resolute Watford defence that was opened up a second time when Fernandinho netted his second goal of a season in which City look hot favourites for the title after a flawless start to the campaign that leaves them top.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ Watford side deserved credit for a first-half defensive display in which they stifled the league’s most potent attack, but there was a sense of inevitability about the result once the deadlock was broken at the Etihad Stadium.
City are now one victory away from equalling Chelsea and Liverpool’s record winning streaks of 11 games, but on this kind of form they look well capable of breaking the Premier League record of 14, set by Arsenal in 2002.
City were unchanged from the side that beat Everton 2-0 last Sunday, while Flores dropped Ikechi Anya to the bench and replaced him with Almen Abdi.
The hosts started brightly, with Sterling – a close-season signing from Liverpool – causing havoc down the left and linking up effectively with David Silva to put Watford under pressure from the outset.
Yaya Toure wasted no time in making his presence felt, felling Abdi with a challenge from behind that earned him a stern word from referee Mark Clattenburg.
Sergio Aguero, keen to add to his only goal of the season so far in the 3-0 win over Chelsea, attempted to weave his way through the packed Watford defence, but Etienne Capoue made a key interception to prevent the Argentine from getting his shot away.
The home side began to show the first signs of frustration when Aguero was scythed down outside the box, and Aleksandar Kolarov blazed the resulting free-kick well over the crossbar.
Watford’s disciplined defending stifled their hosts’ early threat, and Toure started to push forward and add power and guile to the City attack.
Bacary Sagna tested Heurelho Gomes when he managed to snatch a shot after a goalmouth scramble, shortly before the Brazilian goalkeeper had to get down quickly to brilliantly turn Sterling’s close-range shot round a post.
After 40 minutes of almost non-stop defending, cracks started to show in the Watford rearguard, but Aguero fired just wide from 20 yards out when a mistake by Abdi allowed him to shoot, and Watford’s impressive first-half performance was rewarded with a blank scoresheet at the break.
Pellegrini sent on Samir Nasri for Jesus Navas, allowing Sterling to move into attack, and within one minute the substitution paid off, when a cross by Sagna found Sterling, who had lost his marker and enjoyed the easiest of tap-ins from close range to open his account for City.
Less than 10 minutes later, the lead was doubled when a Toure free-kick hit the wall, but the rebound fell to Silva, who teed up Fernandinho with a brilliant pass into the area and the Brazilian smashed it home into the far corner from an acute angle.
Watford should have pulled one back when a Troy Deeney stepover brilliantly played in Anya, but Sagna made a last-ditch block to keep Joe Hart’s clean sheet safe.