“A game of two halves” is a football cliche but very apt for this Watford vs Man City game. Watford came out of the traps very quickly, with their high pressure physical approach looking to unsettle City. City hadn’t won an away game since 12th September and Watford’s front two of Igahlo and Deeney could smell blood.
It was a cagey first half with Watford probably edging it. The Watford pitch is quite cut up, it’s debatable whether it is a tactic or not, but it certainly favours the home side, as they are used to it. In the previous home game Watford had undone Liverpool in a similar vein. Possession teams attempting fast flowing football will struggle on that bobbly pitch. A team recently promoted from the Championship is obviously going to cope better with a poor surface.
City were rapidly undone by a set piece in the second half, on 55 minutes after a Ben Watson corner touched the top of Kolarov’s head to divert in. Pellegrini rang some changes swapping Sterling for Navas on 60 minutes. Sterling has looked jaded, and the offensive trio of Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling have not clicked.
Etienne Capoue had a superb chance to make it 2-0 but after some excellent play he shot tamely at Hart’s legs. Odion Igahlo had a half chance rolling Otamendi in the box but snatched at his shot. City with Navas’ greater width were improving, City of late like at Arsenal have had a tendency to only really play once 1-0 behind.
City equalised with an exquisite volley from Yaya Toure, if not as good or better than his goal at the Emirates. A Kolarov corner was swept in on the volley by Toure in one sweet smooth action leaving Gomes no chance. Two minutes later in the 84th minute City were 2-1 up, an overlapping run by Sagna, fed by Navas, Sagna sent over a delicious cross that Aguero expertly headed in.
Both the Premier League challengers had similar weekends, Arsenal under the cosh beat Newcastle at the Emirates, and City against the odds turned Watford over in 2.5 second half minutes. As is commonly stated not playing well and winning is the sign of Champions.
Watford were understandably devastated and their manager Quique Flores was visibly taken aback in his post match interview. The Watford players looked shell shocked and quickly learnt the gulf in difference between a Championship team and a top Premier League team running through the gears.
Both sets of defences of the title contenders Koscielney/Mertesacker and Managala/Otamendi are guaranteed to give the opposing team a couple of chances.
City need to find a fluidity with Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling as the offensive midfield players, but with such a depth of squad it’s hard not to see how they will not get a second wind with Aguero, Silva and Kompany fully fit.
It was hard on Watford but equally it was scintillating to watch a match turn 360 degrees in 2.5 minutes. Leicester are hogging the limelight but Quique Sanchez Flores and Watford deserve immense praise.