The Warm Down: Spectacular City stroll to treble glory
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The Warm Down: Spectacular City stroll to treble glory

No less than six goals against Watford in the FA Cup final added Manchester City's third major trophy of the season as the Citizens rewrote history on the famous Wembley turf.

jakehorwood
Jake Horwood

This year's FA Cup was rounded off by the making of history. Manchester City became the first ever men's team to achieve an English domestic treble as they demolished Watford in the final at Wembley Stadium. At 6-0, the result goes down as the joint-heaviest triumph the showpiece occasion has ever witnessed, and the Citizens were every bit as good as the scoreline implies.

Officially speaking the 11th consecutive Cup final to be contested only by Premier League teams, the side with their hands clutching the trophy come the end of the 90 minutes may now be considered in a league of their own. They've broken records to carve their name into the history books, yet figures alone can scarcely do justice to their groundbreaking, breathtaking football.

Watford, for their part, were not keen to back down, even if there was an air of inevitability when they did. In the first-half they created chances and were marginally successful in limiting City's at the other end. Yet after the break their resistance was powerless, and their acute hopes of victory shattered tenfold by the pure magnificence of the opposition.

What could have been

After such an emphatic result, to imagine the game producing any other outcome would be ludicrous. City looked like champions from the word 'go', but the Hornets can turn to one moment and wonder if, had fate been dictated differently, they could have defied the odds to earn a result.

That chance arrived ten minutes in. Watford had already survived a minor scare when Bernardo Silva ghosted into their area only for his low cross to be hacked away by Craig Cathcart. A spell of patient City possession came to nothing following a sloppy pass from Oleksandr Zinchenko and, before you knew it, Watford were away.

Kiko Femenía intercepted the ball and offloaded it to Abdoulaye Doucouré. The Frenchman drove forwards and threaded the run of Gerard Deulofeu in behind the defence. A hero in the exhilarating semi-final victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, he strode deeper into the City half before seeking Roberto Pereyra who found himself in a miraculous amount of space with just Ederson to beat.

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But it wasn't to be. The Argentine's low effort was deflected wide by the foot of the Brazilian. From a City perspective they had navigated the biggest fright they were destined to endure — for Watford, it felt from that moment on that the prize was drifting further away as each minute passed.

The first blow was dealt in the 26th minute. David Silva won an aerial duel with Femenía and Raheem Sterling headed back to the Spaniard who now only had Heurelho Gomes to beat. The 33-year old swung his leg at the dropping ball which trickled into the net, giving City a deserved lead.

It was Bernardo who more than played his part in fashioning the second. He strolled towards the retreating Watford defence before shifting the ball onto his stronger left foot and supplying an exquisite cross for Gabriel Jesus who managed to beat Gomes to the ball. Sterling blasted home from the goalmouth, but it went down as a goal for the former.

Two was the deficit at the break, but the gulf in class was glaring, and the onslaught that followed seemed strangely inevitable.

Bloodthirsty Citizens turn brutal

This City side aren't just hell-bent on winning. They want to win big, in style, and with all onlookers made aware of just how superior they are capable of being.

Of course, that infectious self-esteem breeds an arrogance which can sometimes be their downfall. Against teams which match them on the mental playing field, their technical mastery is somewhat neutralised — the six teams to beat them across 2018/19 proved as much. But when the stars align over the blue half of Manchester, there's little even the laws of physics can do to prevent the force of their will.

There was a sign of what was to come less than two minutes after the restart. Jesus picked the ball up on the left side of the box and shimmied past Adrian Mariappa before unleashing a fierce drive at goal which Gomes gratefully saved.

Actually, Watford piloted through opening stages of the second-half rather brightly, and even worked a fabulous opportunity for Deulofeu to halve the deficit which he skewed wide. But once the floodgates opened, there was no looking back.

Just past the hour mark, City cleared the ball from a dead-ball scenario for their opponents. Jesus and Pereyra jostled for the drop with the former eventually coming out on top, and in the blink of an eye the Citizens were through. Sterling supplied Jesus who calmly slotted across goal for substitute Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian faked a first-time shot to send Gomes to the ground before dribbling past the goalkeeper and smashing the ball into the open net.

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Watford looked star-struck and bemused by the damage their opponents were inflicting on them. De Bruyne was involved once again as he weaved into the area from the right flank and powered across goal, forcing Mariappa to turn the ball onto his own post.

The relentlessness of the result and the team on the favourable end of it came with the fourth goal, a fitting display of the football City have played all season in their journey to treble success.

As their fans danced the Poznań, they played out from the back and bypassed a high Watford press with a single incisive pass from Aymeric Laporte. Jesus brought the ball down and exchanged a one-two with De Bruyne in an effortless circumnavigation of the Hornets' defence. The Brazilian sprinted towards goal and coolly slotted past Gomes as any doubt of City's victory was quenched in one single stroke.

As captain of the Citizens Vincent Kompany returned to his half for the restart, he glanced at opposite skipper Troy Deeney and offered an expression which almost indicated embarrassment at the scoreline. Nevertheless, however gracious they were, City were not intent on stopping at four.

Bernardo, a constant thorn in Watford's defence, bolted forward from a midfield position and evaded the efforts of three players to stop his run before lashing the ball across goal where Sterling was lurking. Gomes got his hand to the shot but sheer power was enough to convert it home.

Heartwarming moment marks special occasion

Watford's first FA Cup final for 35 years was not going as planned — it really was death by a thousand cuts. But 32,000 supporters in the yellow half of Wembley responded to the fifth goal in a manner truly befitting of the occasion regardless of what was taking place on the pitch.

Suddenly, the West Stand was a charming sea of yellow and red flags. City fans in the East even rose to their feet and applauded their counterparts for the display.

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The support was unwavering even when Sterling poked home City's sixth. The winger latched onto De Bruyne's vicious cross but saw his initial effort turned onto the post by Gomes before following in to guide the ball home, but the fans at the other end of the stadium remained upstanding, buoyant and vocal. The vast majority even stayed until long after the final whistle.

They were the victims of City's savage realisation of glory, witnesses to sheer brilliance at their own expense, but Watford remained proud. Heading into the campaign they were a team widely tipped for relegation, led by a manager that featured in numerous Premier League sack race predictions, yet come May they were competing at the national stadium in search of a major trophy. The result aside, it remained a momentous occasion for the Hornets.

Dominance redefined

Football has been the sport contested by numerous truly great teams over the years. England in particular has produced a host of honourable mentions, from Arsenal's invincibles, to José Mourinho's Chelsea, and the Manchester United treble winners of 1999.

Statistically speaking, none of the above managed to dominate the domestic playing field at the extent to which this City side have over the last two seasons. 198 Premier League points and two resultant consecutive titles, combined with a couple of Carabao Cup triumphs and their emphatic road to victory in this year's FA Cup, place City on a pedestal from which they may never be toppled.

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Liverpool pushed them to their very limits in the league this season and still they prevailed. The success since Pep Guardiola's arrival is unprecedented in the English game and, what's more, they will only improve with each transfer window and each brutally fulfilling triumph those players win the right to experience. This may just be the start of a daunting spell of true supremacy.

However, England alone will not be enough for Guardiola and his squad. Europe remains unconquered and could even fall into the hands of their bitter competitive rivals in Liverpool. Their focus for next season, as well as retaining the trophies they have gained this time around, has to be on carrying their domestic dominance into the Champions League.

Achieve that, and it could be that no team in history comes close to them.

A sour end to a superb season

A 6-0 drubbing can't take away from the magnitude of success that Watford have enjoyed in their own right throughout 2018/19.

Many doubted their abilities to stay in the division, others expected Javi Gracia to be the one of the first managers to face the sack, and no one anticipated their meteoric rise towards a historic FA Cup final for the club. In that regard, they deserve to be commended rather than rebuked after the result, simply for the fact that they were there in the first place.

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They were commendable in the league, too, amassing the club's largest ever Premier League points haul and attaining its highest domestic finish since 1987.

Recently it seemed as though their season was trundling to a halt, perhaps in part due to the hangover of their semi-final win against Wolves. They were in the running for 7th place and a subsequent guarantee of European football until a poor spot of form devastated hopes of an impressive achievement to mark such a campaign.

Nevertheless, their mere competition in the final served that purpose, and the occasion was a fitting end to a season which will surely live long in the memory of Hornets supporters.

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