Manchester City vs Watford. Premier League.
Match report and highlights as Manchester City extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points; Gabriel Jesus scored two goals in each half and assisted Rodri's rocketed strike in an eye-catching performance; Hassane Kamara scored the first-half reply for Watford
Sunday 24 April 2022 00:07, UK
Gabriel Jesus starred for Manchester City as they extended their lead at the top of the Premier League table, scoring four goals and assisting another in a 5-1 dismantling of Watford.
Pep Guardiola's side did not waste the advantage of playing first this weekend and now lead Liverpool by four points, with the Reds facing Everton in the Merseyside derby on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports from 4pm.
"Nothing changes," the City boss told Sky Sports. "When we won against Brighton we were two points behind [before the game], now we're four in front. Brighton was a 'final'. We had another 'final' today and we won it. Now we have an opportunity to play a 'final' against Leeds.
"Nothing changes. We have to win all five games to be champions."
And it was Brazilian forward Jesus who propelled Man City to another impressive victory against the relegation-threatened Hornets, who remain seven points from safety with five games to play.
It looked like the hosts would run away with the first half once again when Jesus scored his first goal inside four minutes. City scored five goals in the first 18 minutes when Watford last visited the Etihad in September 2019.
Oleksandr Zinchenko picked up Joao Cancelo's long cross over on the left of the area, with his fizzing cross turned home by Jesus' outstretched foot.
The 25-year-old made it two for City in the 23rd minute with arguably one of the easiest goals he will score this season, heading home a curling ball after a world-class cross from Kevin De Bruyne on the left.
Jesus' hat-trick came just seconds after the restart as he made it 4-1. Man City were awarded a penalty as Jesus, who had easily outmuscled Hassane Kamara down the right of the area, saw his legs swiped from underneath him by Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster. "It is a stonewall penalty," Paul Merson said on Soccer Saturday.
Despite a mix-up in communication between the on-field and VAR officials meaning it took a few minutes for the penalty to be taken, it did not affect Jesus as he powered the ball into the far corner for his fourth career hat-trick.
Then, in the 53rd minute, it was four for Jesus after some simply sublime one-touch build-up play. After some good work from Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish in midfield, Jesus played a neat one-two with De Bruyne before sweeping the ball past Foster for Man City's fifth of the game.
However, the pick of the afternoon's goals arguably came from Rodri, who scored a rocketed effort to restore City's two-goal lead in the 34th minute. De Bruyne had been fouled in the build-up, but referee Kevin Friend waved play on.
It worked in City's favour too as Jesus - nabbing an assist alongside his four goals - picked out Rodri at the top of the area. Despite Fernandinho pleading with him to put it out of play so De Bruyne could be treated, Rodri only had eyes for goal, sending a thunderous effort past Foster from range.
Watford did look like putting up some form of a fight in the first half. Zinchenko stopped Watford from a quick equaliser in the 12th minute, making a last-ditch tackle to thwart Emmanuel Dennis' fast break.
Manchester City have now won 15 consecutive games against Watford in all competitions, the longest ever winning run by an English league side over another. The aggregate score in those 15 meetings is 58-8.
Roy Hodgson's side had already proven they could spring a surprise and went a step further when they made it 2-1 just before the half-hour. Some lovely build-up play from Joshua King and Dennis on the left saw the latter lift a delightful ball into the middle for Kamara who powered it into the far corner with a superb finish.
However, the Hornets were simply outclassed by a muscle-flexing Man City, who will hope for a similar showing when they take on Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first leg on Tuesday evening.
Man City: Ederson (5), Cancelo (7), Dias (6), Laporte (6), Zinchenko (7), De Bruyne (8), Rodri (7), Fernandinho (7), Grealish (7), Sterling (7), Jesus (8).
Subs used: Gundogan (7), Ake (6), Mahrez (6).
Watford: Foster (6), Ngakia (6), Kabasele (5), Samir (5), Kamara (6), Sissoko (6), Louza (5), Cleverley (6), Sarr (5), King (6), Dennis (6).
Subs used: Cathcart (5), Joao Pedro (5), Kayembe (n/a).
Man of the match: Gabriel Jesus.
With four goals and an assist, it would be hard to give the award to anyone else. A superb afternoon's work for Jesus at a crucial time in Man City's season.
He later told Sky Sports: "It was my day. This was my first hat-trick in the Premier League. I try it, sometimes I score two and hit the post, the defender blocks, the keeper saves. Today was my day. I am very happy with the three points, the team played so good this afternoon. We deserved it."
The service to Jesus was first-class too, with Kevin De Bruyne producing a fine assist for the second of his four goals.
"He is an amazing player, he always tries to put the ball in the box," Jesus said of his team-mate. "When I play on the right side, I try to do the same but he is better than me, obviously! Always when he has the ball, I try to go in the area to finish and today I was happy that he gave a very good cross and I could head it in."
Man City manager Pep Guardiola to Sky Sports:
"If there was one person who deserves the best of his life for him and his family and friends, it's Gabriel.
"All of us at the club and locker room, when he has one of these situations we are happy for him because he is so generous and it doesn't matter what position he is going to play, he always fights, he always helps for his mates. It was fantastic.
“When it is one goal you never know because if either of these two teams let one in late on and draw that is it really, in my opinion. But then Rodri scores and Jesus in the second half. They just play at a canter. It is scary really.”
"We started with having a goal in the first minutes of the first half and second half, that was good. We didn't defend well in the back, we were not aggressive enough. Defending is a question of attitude, it's not question of skills or abilities, and we were not good.
"But the players at the front, not only Gabriel Jesus for his incredible four goals, but Raheem, Jack, Kevin, all of them, they were brilliant."
Watford manager Roy Hodgson to Sky Sports:
"It was always going to be a tough afternoon because we're playing the champions and a team that's fighting to be champions for a second year in a row.
"If you then concede goals in the very first minutes, you have made life far too difficult for yourself against a team of Man City's quality. In the end, when these things happen, you can so easily find yourself on the end of the heavy defeat.
"There's always a glimpse of hope if you defend properly and make certain that they don't score their goals too easily. There's always opportunists and hope on the counter-attack that you can do something.
"That was the case today, but the pressure is always on the defence and that does provoke mistakes unfortunately and they were able to capitalise on them.
"There's five games left to play so that also gives us lots of hope, but we have to make certain we cut out some of the mistakes that we were forced into giving today and conceding goals in that way.
"But I think there's every chance that against teams around us now, we can certainly play better. Individuals can give better performances than they have done today.
"But to be honest to everybody, they provoke those mistakes and make life difficult for you and that's why they're top of the league and we're near the bottom."
Up next for Manchester City is the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night. Then City return to Premier League action on Saturday at Leeds, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.
Next for Watford is a home game against relegation rivals Burnley on Saturday; 3pm kick-off.
To be rearranged: Wolves (a) Premier League
Tuesday - Real Madrid (h) Champions League SF first leg
April 30 - Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 4 - Real Madrid (a) Champions League SF second leg
May 8 - Newcastle (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 15 - West Ham (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 22 - Aston Villa (h) Premier League
May 28 - Champions League final *
* Subject to progress
April 30 - Burnley (h)
May 7 - Crystal Palace (a)
May 10 - Everton (h)
May 15 - Leicester (h)
May 22 - Chelsea (a)