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Watford 1-2 Manchester City: Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez give Premier League leaders hard-fought win


Leroy Sane scores past Ben Foster

Sane’s goal was his fifth in his last five starts for Manchester City

Goals from Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez gave Manchester City a hard-fought win at Watford which re-established their five-point cushion at the top of the Premier League table.

City had been frustrated early on by saves from Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster until Sane scored in the 40th minute by diverting in Riyad Mahrez’s inswinging cross with his chest.

Six minutes after half-time Mahrez – recalled as manager Pep Guardiola once again rotated his team – increased the lead by sweeping in Gabriel Jesus’ cross at the back post.

City controlled the game with more than 70% of possession but Abdoulaye Doucoure scrambled in for Watford in the 85th minute to give the hosts hope of an unlikely comeback.

That resulted in a nervy finish for City as the hosts sent Foster forward for set-pieces, with Guardiola introducing defensive reinforcements to deal with the pressure, but the visitors held on for their seventh successive league win.

The victory moves them five points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who will again try to reduce the gap when they travel to Burnley on Wednesday.

Squad depth helps City rumble on

The trip to Vicarage Road was City’s second of 13 matches in 44 days and manager Pep Guardiola once again rotated his squad, as he did in the weekend win over Bournemouth.

Sergio Aguero remained sidelined with injury, top scorer Raheem Sterling was rested and an entirely different back four was brought in, including captain Vincent Kompany and England defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones.

Mahrez and David Silva were two of those rested at the weekend and both returned and were influential throughout.

City would have added more goals but for the excellence of Foster, who denied Mahrez and Sane when one-on-one in the first half.

He also produced a fine low save to stop the Algerian’s 20-yard shot in the second.

The edgy finish to the game was in stark contrast to the rest of the match when City looked in control.

The Watford goal came just two minutes after Kompany left the field holding his hamstring, something which will be of concern with the number of games to come in the coming weeks, and suddenly City’s defence looked flustered.

Regardless City held on for their 13th win from 15 games this season and remain unbeaten.

Watford show promise

Defeat for Watford sees them remain in their slump following an impressive start to the season. They have won just two of their last 11 games, after winning their first four this season.

It is the first time they have lost three consecutive games under Javi Gracia and they now have their lowest points total after 15 games in their four seasons since returning to the top flight.

However there is no greater challenge currently than facing Guardiola’s City and there were positives for Watford.

They had few chances but, at 0-0, City goalkeeper Ederson saved well with his legs from Troy Deeney and they did manage to worry their opponents in the closing stages.

Foster was excellent in goal and while City dominated possession, Watford did not allow themselves to be cut apart and managed to stay in the game.

More to follow.

Live Text

Match ends, Watford 1, Manchester City 2.

Second Half ends, Watford 1, Manchester City 2.

Offside, Watford. Gerard Deulofeu tries a through ball, but José Holebas is caught offside.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fernandinho.

Attempt blocked. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Andre Gray.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fabian Delph.

Hand ball by Leroy Sané (Manchester City).

Ederson (Manchester City) is shown the yellow card.

Offside, Watford. Christian Kabasele tries a through ball, but Gerard Deulofeu is caught offside.

Foul by Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City).

Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Manchester City. Aymeric Laporte replaces Gabriel Jesus.

Attempt saved. Troy Deeney (Watford) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross.

Corner, Watford. Conceded by Fernandinho.

Goal! Watford 1, Manchester City 2. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from very close range to the bottom left corner.

Attempt blocked. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Andre Gray.

Substitution, Manchester City. Nicolás Otamendi replaces Vincent Kompany.

Attempt saved. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ilkay Gündogan.

Fabian Delph (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Troy Deeney (Watford).

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by José Holebas.

Substitution, Watford. Andre Gray replaces Isaac Success.

Attempt saved. Abdoulaye Doucouré (Watford) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Troy Deeney.

Substitution, Manchester City. Ilkay Gündogan replaces David Silva.

Offside, Manchester City. Kyle Walker tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.

Attempt saved. Isaac Success (Watford) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by José Holebas with a cross.

Foul by Leroy Sané (Manchester City).

Kiko Femenía (Watford) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Fernandinho (Manchester City).

Troy Deeney (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Riyad Mahrez with a through ball.

Attempt missed. Isaac Success (Watford) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Offside, Manchester City. Bernardo Silva tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.

Offside, Manchester City. Ederson tries a through ball, but Leroy Sané is caught offside.

Substitution, Watford. Gerard Deulofeu replaces Nathaniel Chalobah.

Attempt missed. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is close, but misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Isaac Success.

Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by Christian Kabasele.