MX23RW : Thursday, December 13 14:02:59

Live Commentary: Watford 1-2 Manchester City - as it happened

Relive Manchester City's 2-1 win over Watford as Pep Guardiola's side hold off a late fightback from the hosts to move five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Live Commentary: Watford 1-2 Manchester City - as it happened
© Reuters

Good evening and welcome to Sports Mole's live text coverage of the Premier League clash between Watford and Manchester City at Vicarage Road.

The hosts come into this match without a win in their last four games, which has seen them slip down to 10th in the table.

Man City, on the other hand, have won each of their last six league matches and could open up a five-point gap at the top for 24 hours at least with another victory tonight.

Make sure you don't miss a moment of the action courtesy of our minute-by-minute updates below.


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7pmGood evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's Premier League clash between Watford and leaders Manchester City at Vicarage Road!

City could move five points clear until at least tomorrow night if they chalk up yet another victory tonight, while Watford have suffered a dip in form at just the wrong time ahead of this daunting prospect. The Hornets have impressed at times this season, though, and on their day are more than capable of causing problems for this City side.

We will have a closer look at both in a little while, but first let's check out the team news...


7.02pmWATFORD STARTING XI: Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Chalobah, Pereyra; Deeney, Success

7.02pmWATFORD SUBS: Gomes, Mariappa, Masina, Wilmor, Quina, Deulofeu, Gray

7.04pmMAN CITY STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Stones, Delph; Bernardo, Silva, Fernandinho; Sane, Mahrez, Jesus

7.04pmMAN CITY SUBS: Muric, Danilo, Sterling, Gundogan, Laporte, Otamendi, Foden

7.06pmWhat can we make of those two teams, then?

Well, we'll start with the visitors - one of the many perks of being champions - and Pep Guardiola is certainly sticking to his promise of making changes during the busy December.

The headline is that Sergio Aguero misses out once again having also been sidelined for the weekend win over Bournemouth with a muscle problem, meaning that Gabriel Jesus leads the line for the third game in a row.


7.08pmThere is another notable absentee as not even the in-form Raheem Sterling is immune to the rotation, with the winger only making the bench tonight despite having had a hand in 14 goals from his 12 Premier League games this season - more than any other player.

Riyad Mahrez comes into the side in place of Sterling, joining Jesus and Leroy Sane - who is also in fine form - to complete the City front three.

Raheem Sterling celebrates putting his side back ahead during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Bournemouth on December 1, 2018© Reuters


7.10pmOleksandr Zinchenko is another absentee for the visitors having been forced off against Bournemouth with a facial injury, meaning that Fabian Delph returns to the starting XI at left-back this evening.

Indeed, it is all change in the back for as Pep Guardiola switches his defence completely - including an increasingly rare start for club captain Vincent Kompany. Kyle Walker and John Stones also return to the side as Danilo, Otamendi and Laporte drop out.


7.12pmIn all, Guardiola has made six changes to the side which beat Bournemouth at the weekend, with the final one of those seeing the puppet master David Silva return in place of Ilkay Gundogan, who drops to the bench.

Bernardo is therefore the only one of the goalscorers against Bournemouth to retain his place, although it speaks volumes for the strength in depth of the squad that they make so many changes but are still able to name such a fearsome team.


7.14pmWatford have also made changes for tonight's match, although not as many and one of them is enforced with Etienne Capoue serving his suspension following his red card for a two-footed challenge against Leicester at the weekend.

As expected, Nathaniel Chalobah comes into the side in his place, sitting alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure in the midfield.


7.16pmThere is also a change up front as Gerard Deulofeu drops to the bench against his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola as captain Troy Deeney returns to the side.

Deeney will want more goals this season having struggled to find the back of the net so far this term, but his primary role tonight is likely to be holding the ball up and roughing up those City defenders.


7.18pmThe main goal threat this season has come from Roberto Pereyra, who tops the club's league scoring charts with five goals so far - as many as Deeney and Gray have provided combined.

Pereyra starts again this evening and will be looking to cause problems on the counter-attack should the game go as expected, although much of his time may be spent behind the ball and helping to defend considering City's threat down the flanks.

Roberto Pereyra celebrates scoring during the Premier League game between Watford and Crystal Palace on August 26, 2018© Reuters


7.20pmIn all, Javi Gracia has made three changes to the team which started against Leicester at the weekend, and the only one of those I haven't mentioned is Kabasele coming in for Mariappa at the back.

Mariappa drops to the bench for this match, although Kabasele may not have the fondest memories of Man City having scored an own goal in their most recent meeting in January.


7.22pmThe big question for those Watford players tonight is, quite simply, how do you stop this Man City juggernaut?

This certainly is not the best fixture for a team that has been struggling for form of late, and Watford will need to muster up some of their early-season momentum if they are to stand any chance tonight having picked up just one point from their last four Premier League outings now.


7.24pmThe nature of some of those results will be just as big a concern as the dropped points, having lost to struggling Newcastle and then draw with Southampton - another struggling team - in their next game.

The recent 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Liverpool was harsher than the scoreline suggests, but then they fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Leicester at the weekend, conceding both goals inside the opening 23 minutes and ending the game with 10 men - although they did have chances to claw themselves back into that match.

Watford's Etienne Capoue sees red on December 1, 2018© Reuters


7.26pmIt is a far cry from how Watford started the season, with four straight wins seeing the Hornets keep pace with the likes of Manchester City during the opening weeks of the campaign.

Of course, Watford were never expected to maintain that pace, but Javi Gracia may not have been expected such a sharp downturn in form. Since winning those opening four games, Watford have won just one of the next 10 in the league, drawing two and losing six.

Goalscoring has also been an issue, with just eight goals coming from those 10 games.


7.28pmIndeed, Watford are the lowest scorers in the top half of the table, and the concern for Gracia now will be that Marco Silva suffered a dramatic slump at a similar stage of last season which ultimately led to his sacking - although Gracia's new deal suggests that the board have complete faith in his ability to avoid something similar.

Nevertheless, defeat tonight would see the Hornets lose three games in a row for the first time under Gracia, so the pressure is on to turn this slide around sooner rather than later.


7.30pmAll of that means that Watford come into this match 10th in the Premier League table - still closer to the top four than the relegation zone in terms of points but heading in the wrong direction at the moment.

Defeat tonight would leave them with their lowest points tally after 15 matches from their four seasons since they returned to the top flight, but victory could lift them as high as sixth in the table.


7.32pmMan City will take note of the fact that Watford have already beaten Spurs at home this season, ending their 100% start to the campaign, but the Hornets' form in front of their own fans has dipped since then.

Indeed, heading into this match they have lost three of their last four home league games, which is as many defeats as they had suffered in their previous 15 at Vicarage Road.


7.34pmThere are quite a few contrasting statistics from Watford's home form this season; they would be sixth in the table if only home form counted, yet they have been beaten 4-0 here by Bournemouth and only four teams have conceded more goals in front of their own fans this term.

However, they have beaten the reigning champions at home in each of their last two Premier League campaigns, beating Leicester 2-1 in 2016-17 and Chelsea 4-1 last season.

Javi Gracia in charge of Watford on November 3, 2018© Reuters


7.36pmIt would be a major shock if Man City were to fall to a similar fate as their title-holding predecessors, though, simply because they look almost untouchable at the moment.

Even ignoring Watford's dip in form for a moment, City come into this match having won each of their last six Premier League games and still unbeaten in 14 so far this term to quickly reassume their position at the top of the pile.


7.38pmIndeed, including the end of last season it is now 20 Premier League games without defeat for Man City, winning 17 of those, and they have dropped just four points throughout the current campaign.

Incidentally, the only two games City have failed to win this season have been the only two games in which they have failed to score in the first half, so first on the Watford agenda tonight will be getting to half time at 0-0 or better. A tough ask admittedly, but surely something they will be aiming for.


7.40pmKeeping this Man City attack at bay is as difficult as puncturing the defence at the other end, though, and Man City boast a remarkable goal difference of +37 after just 14 games of the season.

Not only is that comfortably the best attacking record and the second-best defensive record in the league, but it is also the best goal difference after 14 games of an English top-flight season since the very first league campaign in 1888-89, 130 years ago.

Preston were the team to record that al-time best goal difference, and they went on to become the inaugural 'Invincibles' - a very exclusive club Man City will be looking to join this year.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola watches on during the Manchester derby in November 2018© Reuters


7.42pmThe main difference between last season and this term has not been City's quality, but rather the quality of their challengers, and Liverpool in particular are proving to be stubborn in their pursuit of glory this term.

City nonetheless sit two points clear of the Reds, though, and victory tonight would extend that lead to five with Liverpool - and the rest of the top eight, for that matter - not in action until tomorrow night.


7.44pmCity did temporarily go five points clear at the weekend too courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth, only for Liverpool to close the gap again with their dramatic Merseyside derby triumph.

Guardiola's side were far from their best against Bournemouth, but they still managed to control the game for the most part and, after surviving a scare when Callum Wilson equalised, went on to win relatively comfortably through goals from Bernardo, Sterling and Gundogan.

Bernardo Silva scores the opener during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Bournemouth on December 1, 2018© Reuters


7.46pmThat result extended City's 100% home start to the season, meaning that all of their dropped points so far this term have come on the road - although to paint their away form as being a weakness would be stretching it.

Guardiola's side are unbeaten in their last 13 away Premier League games, winning 10 of those and drawing three in a run which stretching back to January. The champions have conceded just five goals in those 13 games too, and never more than once in a match.


7.48pmIndeed, City have only let in one goal away from home all season so far, and that came via the hand of Willy Boly in August. Since then, City have gone a joint-club record four games without conceding on the road - equalling the previous mark set in 1903.

Another slice of history could beckon too, with City aiming to equal their longest-ever unbeaten streak away from home in the top flight, which was set in April to December of last year.


7.50pmPREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at Vicarage Road, which means that it is time for a prediction!

The hosts have hit a poor spell of form at just the wrong time to visit Man City to town, although the visitors have been so impressive that it would be hard to back against them even if Watford were in fine form. We're going for another Man City win.

SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Watford 0-3 Man City


7.52pmAs though Watford's chances did not seem bleak enough, they are also winless in their last eight Premier League meetings with City and have lost each of the last six in a row.

Indeed, across all competitions City have won all eight of their matches against Watford this decade, scoring at least twice on each occasion to rack up an aggregate score of 27-4.


7.54pmYou have to go back to March 1989 for Watford's last win against Manchester City, and since that second-tier triumph they have lost 11 of the 13 meetings overall.

The most recent of those came at the very start of this calendar year, when Sterling opened the scoring in the very first minute before Man City went on to build a 3-0 lead. Gray pulled one back late on for Watford, but it was a routine win for City in the end at the Etihad.


7.56pmIt is here at Vicarage Road that Watford have suffered the most damage, losing 6-0 in the corresponding fixture last season and 5-0 the year before that.

Indeed, Man City tonight could become only the second team to score five or more goals in three consecutive top-flight away games against an opponent. West Brom - against Birmingham from 1957 to 1960 - are the only team to have previously managed that feat.


7.58pmRight, we're almost ready for kickoff here, so let's have a quick recap of the teams before we do get started...

WATFORD STARTING XI: Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Chalobah, Pereyra; Deeney, Success

MAN CITY STARTING XI: Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Stones, Delph; Bernardo, Silva, Fernandinho; Sane, Mahrez, Jesus


1 minKICKOFF:  Here we go, then! Man City get us underway at the Etihad!

2 minThe ball drops to Silva around 25 yards from goal and he attempts a first-time volley, but it flies a long, long way over the crossbar.

4 minMan City have seen the lion's share of possession so far, as you would expect. They have played a few slick passes already, but nothing to unduly worry the Watford defence so far.

6 minUPDATE: There are three other Premier League games taking place tonight which kicked off at 7.45pm, and Bournemouth have scored the first goal against Huddersfield through Callum Wilson.

8 minUPDATE: Indeed, Bournemouth have just doubled their advantage against the Terriers. Ryan Fraser set up Wilson for the first, but the roles are reversed this time as Fraser gets his own name on the scoresheet.

9 minSHOT!  Watford make their first break forward as Deeney breaks down the left before sliding a pass inside for Pereyra. The winger cuts inside past Fernandinho and then tries to bend his effort into the far corner, but it is a couple of yards wide of the target.

11 minCHANCE!  City respond with a huge chance of their own as Sane picks off a square ball on the halfway line and immediately races clean through on goal.

The winger only has Foster to beat and just goes for the dinked finish, but Foster sticks up a big hand to make a magnificent save. Big, big chance for the visitors!


13 minUPDATE: Brighton have taken the lead in the M23 derby against Crystal Palace, with Glenn Murray scoring from the penalty spot.

14 minWatford just cannot keep the ball at the moment. It keeps on coming back at them and that relentless pressure is sure to pay off sooner or later if it carries on like this.

15 minUPDATE: Brighton's joy has not lasted long - they have had Duffy sent off against Palace for an off-the-ball incident.

17 minSilva dinks a lovely pass over the defence for Sane, who beats the offside trap to collect it in the area. Watford's defence scrambles back and smothers the low cross, but it is another corner for City now.

19 minUPDATE: A remarkable turn of events in that action-packed Brighton game; following that red card Leon Balogun was brought on to shore up the defence, and just two minutes after his introduction he has doubled Brighton's advantage!

19 minCHANCE!  Extraordinary defending from Watford, and in particular Foster! Fernandinho slipped a lovely ball through to Mahrez to leave him through on goal, but Foster is quickly off his line to thwart the winger.

The ball then bounces out to Bernardo, but he is also denied by Foster, and then the Watford keeper makes it a trio to wonderful stops to deny David Silva from another rebound. Still the danger is not over, though, and Watford's defence are finally able to hack it away after Mahrez failed to make anything of it inside the area.


21 minThat really was superb goalkeeping from Foster, who has kept his side in this game so far. His first save from Mahrez was brilliant - similar to the one with which he denied Sane earlier - and he recovered so well to smother the two Silva's after that.

22 minSAVE!  Ederson is called into action for the first time tonight, but it is as routine as you like to collect Chalobah's effort.

24 minUPDATE: It is an action-packed night in the Premier League so far! Cardiff have just seen a penalty saved against West Ham, and Terence Kongolo has pulled one back for Huddersfield against Bournemouth.

26 minBetter from Watford in the last couple of minutes as they begin to see a little bit more of the ball and get themselves further up the field. It has been one-way traffic so far, so anything Watford can do to relieve that pressure will help.

28 minWe're approaching the half-hour mark in this match now and Watford will be delighted to reach that mini-milestone will still level. They have Foster to thank for that, but they need to offer more going forward of they are to continue to repel City's dominance.

30 minCity are being forced to be patient tonight. They have often struck early en route to their victories this season, but Watford are giving very little away at the moment.

31 minCHANCE!  Silva slides a pass through to Jesus, who does well to turn Kabasele on the byline and almost squeezes his shot past the keeper from a tight angle. Foster is once again there to deny the visitors, though.

32 minCHANCE!  Out of nothing, Watford create a glorious chance to break the deadlock!

Doucoure hooks the ball over his head and back into the box and Deeney turns it towards goal, but Ederson makes a crucial stop with his feet.


34 minThat chance will just give Watford a bit of encouragement. They have simply had to settle for keeping Man City at bay before that chance, but now will know that they could steal something from this if another chance falls their way.

36 minUPDATE: Ten-man Brighton are now 3-0 up against Crystal Palace! Florin Andone has added a third for the hosts at the Amex.

38 minWatford fans may be thinking back to their match against Liverpool here recently, when they held their own but eventually lost 3-0 in the first half. There is no doubt that fatigue will begin to play a part, but right now they are looking solid despite City's relentless pressure.

40 minGOAL!  WATFORD 0-1 MANCHESTER CITY (LEROY SANE)

40 minGOAL!  Man City finally break the deadlock with just five minutes remaining in the first half!

Mahrez initially swings a lovely ball in to the back post, where Silva meets it but sees his effort come off the keeper then back off his shins and bounce away from goal. The ball comes back to Mahrez, though, and he puts an almost identical cross into the box for Sane this time, and the German chests it beyond Foster at the back post.


42 minCHANCE!  City hit Watford with a rapid counter moments later as Mahrez races down the right flank, but Kabasele does really well to get back and block the low cross towards an unmarked Sane at the back post.

44 minIt will be gutting for Watford to have conceded so close to half time, but they can't have many complaints at being behind. Had it not been for Foster, it could be game over already tonight.

45+1 minThere will be one minute of added time at the end of this first half.

45+2 minHALF TIME:  WATFORD 0-1 MANCHESTER CITY

8.56pmThe first half comes to an end at Vicarage Road, and it is Man City who have finally made the breakthrough to go into the interval with the lead.

It is a wholly deserved lead, but Ben Foster in particular is unfortunate to be on the losing side at the moment having made a string of brilliant saves in the opening 45 minutes. City have just been too relentless, though, and the goal eventually came.


8.58pmThe only goal of the game so far came five minutes before half time as Leroy Sane continued his fine recent form by chesting Mahrez's cross past Foster.

Mahrez had delivered an almost identical ball for Silva moments early, but this time Watford could not stop it as Sane bundled the ball home - just one attack too many for the hosts.



9pmMan City have created a plethora of chances and could be out of sight already, but they have found Ben Foster in inspired form.

The keeper has made brilliant saves to deny Sane and Mahrez when one on one, while the latter chance also saw him recover to thwart Bernardo Silva and David Silva from the rebounds. Jesus has also seen an effort saved by the keeper, but he could do nothing about the opener.


9.02pmDespite being on the back foot for the vast majority of that first half, Watford did create one clear chance of their own while the score was still 0-0.

Doucoure hooked the ball back into the area and Deeney was the wrong side of the defence, meeting the dropping ball with a half-volley. Ederson reacted well to save it, though, and the Hornets may not create a better chance.


46 minKICKOFF:  Watford get us back underway for the second half!

48 minAs good as Foster has been at shot-stopping tonight, he has looked a little shaky when coming out for high balls into the box. He lets one bounce here and is fortunate that it is a kind one for him with Jesus lurking.

50 minWatford may be forced into a change here. Will Hughes is struggling and the hosts are lining up a change.

51 minGOAL!  WATFORD 0-2 MANCHESTER CITY (RIYAD MAHREZ)

51 minGOAL!  Man City have their second of the night six minutes after the restart as Riyad Mahrez continues his fine record at this ground.

Sane gives the ball to Silva, who in turn slides it down the channel for Jesus. The striker pulls a low ball back into the box, where Mahrez is waiting to sweep his finish home.


53 minWATFORD SUB: Watford do make that enforced change in the aftermath of that goal as Domingos Quina replaces the injured Hughes.

55 minIt has been a decent response from Watford to that second goal, but it is such a long way back for them here.

57 min

59 minUPDATE: West Ham have scored three second-half goals to take a commanding lead against Cardiff at the London Stadium.

60 minCHANCE!  Fernandinho wins the ball and releases Mahrez, who cuts inside and tries to curl one into the far corner. The shot takes a big deflection and loops towards goal, but a scrambling Foster is relieved to see it drop past the post.

61 minFoster comes charging off his line prematurely here with Kabasele closely tracking Jesus, who manages to escape the defender but cannot get a lob away with the keeper in no-man's land.

63 minCHANCE!  Half a chance for Bernardo as the ball drops to him inside the area, but the angle is against him and he snatches at it a little, pulling his shot wide of the target.

64 minWATFORD SUB: Gerard Deulofeu comes on for the hosts here, replacing Chalobah.

66 minHere is that Mahrez goal which looks to have taken this game out of Watford's reach...



68 minIt looks like a big chance for City as Bernardo flicks a header on for Jesus, who is left with a clear header of his own. He puts it over, but his blushes are spared by the linesman's flag.

68 minSHOT!  A rare shooting chance for Watford as Success collects the ball and cuts onto his left foot before curling his effort over the crossbar when looking for the far top corner.

69 minCHANCE!  ...and Man City responded at the other end. Watford lose the ball around 30 yards from the Man City goal and Mahrez immediately pounces before releasing Jesus. The striker only has Foster to beat, but he skews his attempted ship wide of the target when he should have done a lot better.

71 minCHANCE!  Half a chance for the hosts as Holebas swings a free kick into the middle which Success meets. He cannot get enough on his header, though, and the last touch comes off Kompany to make it easy for Ederson.

73 minMAN CITY SUB: Change for the visitors here as Ilkay Gundogan replaces Silva.

74 minCHANCE!  Better from Watford as they create a decent chance, with Deeney sliding a pass to Doucoure, who looks to pick out the bottom far corner. He puts his shot too close to Ederson, though, and the keeper makes a comfortable save.

75 minWATFORD SUB: Another change from the home side as Andre Gray replaces Success.

77 minUPDATE: Crystal Palace have pulled a goal back against 10-man Brighton, but surely it is too little too late for them at the Amex.

79 min

81 minBrilliant challenge from Kompany as he shows perfect timing to take the ball off Gray just when it looked as though the Watford striker might break into the box.

82 minSAVE!  This score could be a lot worse for Watford had it not been for Foster. He shows a strong hand here to parry away another goalbound Mahrez effort.

83 minMAN CITY SUB: Kompany departs for the closing stages here as Nicolas Otamendi replaces him.

85 minGOAL!  WATFORD 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY (ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE)

85 minGOAL!  Now then! A lifeline for Watford as they pull a goal back with just five minutes remaining!

Delph gave the ball away inside his own half and Deulofeu races down the right flank before putting a ball into the box. It initially looks as though the chance has gone for Doucoure, who got his head to the ball first and then poked it goalwards and saw his effort blocked by Walker on the line. However, the rebound falls kindly for him again and he bundles it over the line from point-blank range!


87 minCHANCE!  Big chance for Watford to complete a remarkable turnaround as Deeney climbs highest inside the area and plants a header towards the top corner which Ederson plucks out of the sky.

89 minMAN CITY SUB: Guardiola is clearly concerned here - he replaces Jesus with Aymeric Laporte late on.

90 minYELLOW CARD!  Ederson picks up a late yellow card for time-wasting.

90+1 minThere will be four minutes of added time at the end of this match. Can Watford get an equaliser?

90+2 minWatford win a corner and Foster is up for it! The hosts are throwing everything at this!

90+4 minFULL TIME:  WATFORD 1-2 MANCHESTER CITY

9.58pmWatford fall just short of an unlikely comeback against the champions, then, as Man City hold off a late rally to pick up a deserved 2-1 victory which takes them five points clear at the top of the table.

City seemed to be cruising to another victory courtesy of goals from Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez either side of half time, but Doucoure's late strike just gave the hosts a glimmer of hope.


10pmRight, that is all we have time for this evening!

Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's Premier League clash as Man City survive a late scare to move five points clear at the top of the table. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.

From me, though, it is goodbye for now!


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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola pictured on September 29, 2018
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool1613303462842
2Manchester CityMan City1613214593641
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs16120430161436
4Chelsea16104233132034
5Arsenal16104235201534
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd167542826226
7Everton166642319424
8Bournemouth167272526-123
9Leicester CityLeicester166462120122
10Wolverhampton WanderersWolves166461719-222
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham166372325-221
12Watford166372023-321
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton166371922-321
14Cardiff CityCardiff1642101530-1514
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle163491322-913
16Crystal Palace1633101323-1012
17Burnley1633101532-1712
18Huddersfield TownHuddersfield1624101027-1710
19Southampton161691330-179
20Fulham1623111640-249

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