Manchester City moved five points clear at the top of the Premier League as they held on in a tense finish for a 2-1 victory at Watford on Tuesday. It appeared to be business as usual when Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez scored either side of half-time, but Abdoulaye Doucoure’s late goal set up a dramatic finish as they pushed for an equaliser.
Watford didn’t sit back but City were still able to employ their usual dominant gameplay, enjoying more than 70 percent possession. While the scoreline wasn’t as emphatic as they have been in recent weeks, for 85 minutes it was one of their most dynamic performances of the season against a side with the sixth-best home record in the Premier League. Playing 24 hours before closest rivals Liverpool keeps piling the pressure on Jurgen Klopp’ side.
City were rattled in a tense final 10 minutes and lost their shape and nerve. Pep Guardiola was screaming from the sidelines for his defenders to regain their composure and think about their passing as they repeatedly fired the ball clear as the Hornets bombarded the visitors with high balls into the box.
7 — Guardiola is trying to rotate his squad for the busy December and January period and his alterations worked out well. The whole back four changed — Vincent Kompany and John Stones came in at centre-half and were strong against the physical threat of Troy Deeney and Isaac Success, while the full-backs offered more protection. Raheem Sterling was given a rest and Mahrez and Sane stepped up to try to keep their place for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea, knowing the England winger is likely to return. A late change to bring on Nicolas Otamendi could have backfired with Watford scoring almost immediately.
GK Ederson, 7 — Big moment in the first half when he kept out Deeney’s close-range effort. More often seen as an auxiliary defender so it was a reminder that he is also a good goalkeeper.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 — Linked up well with Mahrez moving forward and shut down any Watford threat down the left-hand side.
DF Vincent Kompany, 7 — Recalled for his first Premier League start in more than a month, and put in a solid display. A couple of delightful passes through the lines to set up dangerous moments.
DF John Stones, 7 — Has missed both Premier League games since the international break, but turned in an impressive performance that will show Guardiola that he can rotate his centre-backs without impacting the team.
DF Fabian Delph, 6 — Didn’t quite offer as much of an attacking threat as the injured Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Gave the ball away for Watford’s goal.
MF Fernandinho, 7 — Now the only City player to have started every Premier League and Champions League game this season, such is his importance. Kept the midfield ticking with his quick passing and ability to close down counter-attacks.
MF Bernardo Silva, 7 — Fewer mistakes than the weekend as City dominated possession and worked well with Mahrez as they overloaded on the right-hand side.
MF David Silva, 8 — Offered the visitors more control and his passing unlocked the Hornets defence time and again. Should have extended his goal-scoring streak to five in five starts.
FW Riyad Mahrez, 8 — Gave Jose Holebas a torrid time with his ability to go inside or out. Most threatening when he came inside and his wicked in-swinging crosses caused the opposition all sorts of problems and led to the opening goal.
FW Gabriel Jesus, 6 — Worked hard, pulling the centre-backs all over the pitch. Some great moments of individual skill, but that goal eludes him as he tries to make the most of Sergio Aguero’s injury.
FW Leroy Sane, 8 — The winger is back up to full pace after a mixed start to the season. Tore through the back four with his speed for an early chance well saved by Ben Foster but got the crucial breakthrough.