Manchester City 3-1 Watford: Quick-fire Sterling hat-trick sees City go four points clear 
(Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Man City via Getty Images)

Manchester City 3-1 Watford: Quick-fire Sterling hat-trick sees City go four points clear 

A second-half Sterling hat-trick has seen City go four points clear at the top of the league. 

Josh Slinger

A second-half blitz of the Watford goal has seen Manchester City go four points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Raheem Sterling scored a ten-minute hat-trick for the champions, bolstering their title hopes as the race with his former club, Liverpool, continues.

Story of the game

Often in games at the Etihad this season, City have blown teams away in the early stages, although this didn’t prove to be the case today.

The first half-chance of the game did fall the way of the Blues, as David Silva dinked the ball over to Sterling, who could only flick the ball into the grateful arms of Ben Foster.

This was shortly followed by Riyad Mahrez bending in a cross for the Spaniard, who was just unable to glance his diving header past the English ‘keeper.

Despite this, inside the opening 10 minutes, Watford saw their fair share of the ball and isolated the Blues to very few chances – a positive start for Javi Gracia’s men

Daryl Janmaat was causing the odd issue for Pep Guardiola’s men with his drives forward, one of which resulting in the Hornets best early opportunity as Andre Gray snatched at a ball fired into him.

The Etihad faithful were flat from the off, and the early performance of the team didn’t help towards contributing an atmosphere.

Oleksandr Zinchenko fired a shot across goal which was almost tapped in by Aguero with 20 minutes played, although Watford remained relatively untroubled by the champions, despite them now starting to dominate possession.

Aguero then missed the best chance of the game, as Mahrez whipped a perfect cross right onto the head of the unmarked Argentine, who could only glance wide.

Mahrez himself then fired just wide from distance just before the half-time whistle. City in control at the break, but far from their dazzling best.

Into the second half, the champions got on the front foot straight away, and following a ball over the top, took the lead within seconds.

Sterling bundled the ball into the back of the net, with the flag originally raised for offside, before Paul Tierney dismissed the decision of his linesman, and gives the goal as the ball had bounced off Tom Cleverley.

Seconds later, Sterling got his and City’s second.

A ball out wide saw Mahrez beat his man again down the right, cross the ball into Sterling who had a tap-in. Less than five minutes played in the half, and the game looked over.

With the Etihad now bouncing, and City’s confidence flowing, it seemed as though the home side were the only ones in contention to get the next goal.

On the hour mark, this goal came.

Sterling completed a sensational hat-trick in just over 10 minutes, as he got on the end of a terrific ball from David Silva, composed himself and scooped the ball past Foster.

A moment of City possession followed before out of nowhere the Hornets fired themselves back into the game.

A long ball upfield from Foster saw Troy Deeney head the ball down with his first touch of the game to set up Gerard Deulofeu who fired home with his first touch. A terrific double substitution from Gracia and Watford were in with a chance.

City then opted for a more cautious approach for the remainder of the match, in order to ensure the three points where there's.

Watford continued to press and try and get themselves back in the game, with the fresh-legged Deeney and Deulofeu both looking the most likely to inflict more damage. 

Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus had chances to round off the scoring, although were unable to beat the Watford defence, who barring a poor 10 minutes, had remained highly resilient throughout.

The full-time whistle was greeted by a huge cheer by the City fans, who will now be very confident of there side securing back-to-back Premier League titles for the first time in their history. 

Takeaways from the match

City strong favourites

At the back end of 2018, City fell 10 points behind Liverpool, and suddenly seemed firm underdogs to retain their title.

Following the victory of the Merseysiders on their first matchup of the new year, City haven't looked back, and now look unstoppable on all fronts.

The pressure now falls on Jurgen Klopp's men to go and cut the gap back down on Guardiola's men tomorrow, knowing that anything less than three points will leave them in a very difficult position. 

Watford the best of the rest?

In recent years, the attitude of the Watford board has been deemed highly controversial, with them seemingly sacking managers every time there's a downturn in form.

Despite this, the Hornets technique seems to be paying off, as they remain in contention to finish seventh, only behind the so-called 'big six' and in with a shot of European qualification.

Gracia's men showed their quality defensively throughout the first-half, although were simply blown away by a powerful second-half City display.