Manchester City 2 Watford 0: Zabaleta and Silva get hosts back on track
Pablo Zabaleta scored his first Premier League goal in more than two years to help Manchester City to a 2-0 victory over Watford.
Pep Guardiola made five changes to his team as he looked to halt a run of two straight defeats and was rewarded with a comfortable win at the Etihad Stadium.
Captain Zabaleta struck in the first half, converting Kevin De Bruyne’s cross.
Raheem Sterling hit the crossbar after the break as City controlled proceedings and David Silva’s late strike sealed the win.
Watford produced a lacklustre display but will rue a late miss from Odion Ighalo, a rare opportunity that could have changed the match when the deficit was just one.
City’s first win in three keeps them in fourth place and within seven points of leaders Chelsea ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash at home to title rivals Arsenal.
Watford drop down to 11th in the table and have now lost four of their last six top-flight matches.
Heurelho Gomes made an early save from De Bruyne following good link-up play with Sterling, while the goalkeeper also kept out Nolito’s effort after the resulting corner fell into his path.
Nolito tested Gomes again from a tight angle as City dominated possession and probed for a breakthrough.
Watford had made four changes to their team, but Roberto Pereyra’s return from suspension did not last long as he was forced off with injury, Juan Zuniga replacing him.
City’s opening goal arrived after 33 minutes. With Nolito having worked a pass out to De Bruyne, the Belgium international floated a wonderful cross to the far post and Zabaleta volleyed in from six yards.
De Bruyne had a curling effort saved, while Yaya Toure fired over as City finished the first half firmly in control, although the hosts suffered a blow when Ilkay Gundogan limped off to be replaced by Fernando.
City were so close to a second after the break when Sterling collected Toure’s pass and surged towards the Watford box before striking the bar with his left-footed shot from 18 yards.
Guardiola’s side continued to have the better of the play, but the home crowd were growing frustrated at their failure to kill off the match.
Watford brought on Isaac Success and Troy Deeney in an attempt to change the game, but Claudio Bravo was untroubled until he kept out Etienne Capoue’s late volley.
Walter Mazzarri’s men could have claimed an unlikely point, only to waste a glorious chance when Ighalo somehow missed the target from Nordin Amrabat’s cross.
And City ensured they returned to winning ways in a counterattack with four minutes to go, Silva linking up with Sterling before confidently beating Gomes.
Key Opta stats:
– David Silva scored his first Premier League goal since January 2016, ending a run of 23 games without a goal.
– Since his Premier League debut in September 2015, only Mesut Ozil (20) has assisted more goals than Kevin De Bruyne (17).
– Seven of Pablo Zabaleta’s nine Premier League goals have been scored at the Etihad Stadium.
– Watford have never won a Premier League match on a Wednesday (W0 D2 L8).
– Yaya Toure and David Silva both played their 200th Premier League games for Man City – the fifth and sixth players to achieve this feat (Joe Hart, Richard Dunne, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta the others).
– Troy Deeney has featured in all of Watford’s last 57 matches in all competitions – that run began with last season’s away Premier League match at Man City in August.