LONDON: Manchester City are back at their best. Defeat by Norwich a week ago served as a wake-up call for the Premier League champions. Complacency and lazy errors have been banished from their game.
In midweek they won 3-0 away to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and followed up by shooting eight goals past their favourite opponents, Watford.
City raced into a 5-0 lead inside 18 minutes and Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster said afterwards he was grateful that Pep Guardiola’s eased up in the second half. Foster said: “It was embarrassing. We let down ourselves and our fans. Thankfully City took their foot off the gas in the second half. They’re the best team I’ve ever faced. At times they were breath-taking. It won’t be the last time they do this to a team.”
Bernardo Silva claimed his first top-flight hat-trick with City proving they can score from all over their team with further goals from forwards Sergio Aguero (penalty) and Riyad Mahrez (free kick), midfielders David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne plus defender Nicolas Otamendi. City also twice hit the posts. Aguero thus became the first player to score in each of the opening six Premier League games in a season.
The result was a perfect way for City to celebrate their 125th anniversary and a sobering result for the newly-reinstalled Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores.
City ended one goal short of equalling rivals Manchester United’s Premier League record 9:0 defeat of Ipswich in 1995 but did surpass their own 7:0 victory over Norwich in November 2013. Their largest post war league victory remains a 10:1 thrashing of Huddersfield in November 1987.
This was Watford’s heaviest defeat in the top four tiers of English football and only the third time they have conceded eight goals in a league game. They hate playing City. In nine previous meetings since the Hornets were promoted to the top flight in 2014, City had scored 31 goals including their 6:0 walkover in last season’s FA Cup Final.
City manager Guardiola, who kept Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus on the substitutes’ bench, said: “I said after Norwich that everyone can lose games. Players are human beings and can make mistakes. We respect incredibly the opponents and that is why we play the way we do – and for the fans who come to watch the game.”
Elsewhere . . .
Manuel Pellegrini became the first manager to win a Premier League game against four different Manchester United bosses (David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) after West Ham’s 2-0 home victory.
Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scored. United have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last 11 away matches in all competitions, their worst run since December 2002.
Tottenham target James Maddison scored the late winner as Leicester hit back from a goal down for a 2-1 win. England manager Gareth Southgate had already left the ground.
VAR took centre stage again. This was the third time in four games that Spurs have lost the lead. VAR played a role. A Serge Aurier ‘goal’ which would have put them 2-0 ahead was ruled out because of a fractional offside decision against Son Heung.
Sheffield United’s Saudi owner, Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad, won a court battle to take full control of the club then saw them win 2-0 at Everton. Victory celebrations overshadowed controversy after the Prince suggested he might sell shares to the construction company owned by the family company of dead terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Daniel Farke’s Norwich were unable to repeat their Manchester City heroics as they lost 2-0 at Burnley.
Teemu Pukki wasted one immediate chance before New Zealand striker Chris Wood scored both early Burnley goals. Farke said: “It was 60-40 possession to us and they had 13 shots to our 11. But the first 15 minutes cost us the game.”