Class act

Guardi­ola re­gards him just as a squad player, but Aguero hits stun­ning hat-trick as City throw down chal­lenge to ri­vals

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Jim White at Vicarage Road

Go­ing one bet­ter than the 5-0 score­line they rat­tled up here last sea­son, Manch­ester City net­ted three goals in each half to cruise to the top of the Premier League. Watch­ing them in full ma­jes­tic flow, watch­ing the speed and flu­ency of their at­tack­ing ef­forts, watch­ing the lynx-eyed cer­tainty of their fin­ish­ing, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly hard to imag­ine any­one can now dis­lodge them. Here’s how good Pep Guardi­ola’s side are: he can field Ni­co­las Ota­mendi at cen­tre-back and not for a mo­ment look dis­com­forted.

“I am a spec­ta­tor like you, of course I did,” the City man­ager said when asked if he had en­joyed his team’s per­for­mance. “All man­agers like to see their team play good. I’m de­lighted for the play­ers, the way we played.”

There was a rather fond sug­ges­tion be­fore 3pm that Wat­ford had the chance to go top for the first time since 1982. All they needed to do was win. But from the mo­ment Ser­gio Aguero rolled the ball back­wards from the kick-off, it was clear the chances of that were about as high as Noel Gal­lagher, sit­ting in the direc­tors’ box along­side El­ton John, turn­ing up for the match arm in arm with his brother Liam.

It was not that Wat­ford were poor. It was just that City are so well re­sourced they could af­ford once more to leave Yaya Toure off their team sheet. Not that they needed him. Their pass­ing was crisp and imag­i­na­tive, their run­ning clever and di­rect. From the off they set up camp in the Wat­ford half. At times, poor Heurelho Gomes in the home goal must have won­dered at what point he had signed up to par­tic­i­pate in a ses­sion of City shoot­ing prac­tice.

Things had barely got un­der way be­fore David Silva’s bril­liant cross-field pass found Kevin de Bruyne, whose first-time lay-off to Ra­heem Ster­ling merely man­aged to trip the for­ward up. A mo­ment later Silva and De Bruyne eased once again through the Wat­ford de­fence, but the Bel­gian snatched at his shot and fired wide. He soon made amends with a su­perb, rak­ing rapier of a pass that found Aguero, who chipped the ball on the roof of the home goal.

It was but a hint of what was com­ing. Just af­ter Wat­ford’s Richarli­son put a highly con­vert­ible chance wide of Eder­son’s goal, City showed him how to fin­ish. As the vis­i­tors ad­vanced, Tom Clev­er­ley, be­mused by the blur of pass­ing around him, brought down John Stones. At first the ref­eree ap­peared to be play­ing ad­van­tage, but when Stones stum­bled and lost the ball, he blew for a foul. De Bruyne then demon­strated his con­trol of a foot­ball by bend­ing the free-kick be­hind the Wat­ford back­line, per­fectly find­ing Aguero’s fore­head.

Three min­utes later, Gabriel Je­sus rolled Daryl Jan­maat on the touch­line, raced men­ac­ingly to­wards goal, be­fore pass­ing to Silva. The Spa­niard’s deft cross was prod­ded away by Aguero ar­riv­ing un­no­ticed at the far post. Then the Ar­gen­tine turned provider, hit­ting the ball for­ward, al­low­ing Je­sus, from a po­si­tion sus­pi­ciously off­side, to evade his marker and skip in for the third.

“We’re Man City, we’re tak­ing the p---,” sang the vis­it­ing crowd. It was hard to dis­agree with that as­sess­ment: 3-0 af­ter 37 min­utes. In the gath­er­ing of su­per­an­nu­ated pop leg­ends in the direc­tors’ box, it was Gal­lagher who was grin­ning the widest.

Wat­ford tried to come back af­ter the break. An­dre Car­illo jinked his way into the City box, re­quir­ing some swift re­me­dial work by the vis­it­ing de­fence. From the re­sult­ing cor­ner Nathaniel Chalobah ap­peared to be felled waisthigh by Kyle Walker. But, much to the Wat­ford man’s an­noy­ance, the ref­eree waved play on. Richarli­son then headed wide from a cor­ner.

The prospect of a Wat­ford come­back, how­ever, was fan­ci­ful. City were al­ways there, lurk­ing, ever dan­ger­ous, full of tricks and feints. And, af­ter a quite breath­tak­ing move be­tween most of the front six ended with a scooped clear­ance, Ota­mendi neatly headed the fourth from a cor­ner.

Then, af­ter a de­li­cious jink­ing run, Aguero com­pleted his sixth City hat­trick, mov­ing to within three goals of be­com­ing the club’s most suc­cess­ful ever goalscorer. Goal No6 came in the dy­ing mo­ments when skil­ful Ster­ling con­verted a penalty he had earned.

As the Wat­ford fans scur­ried for the ex­its it might have seemed that their side’s un­beaten run to this point in the sea­son was an aber­ra­tion. In truth, how­ever, Marco Silva’s side were not with­out merit. They bat­tled and scrapped and never stopped har­ry­ing. And in Car­illo they have a winger of cal­i­bre, who against lesser op­po­si­tion might well carry a threat.

But here they were up against a more sub­stan­tial side. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two op­er­a­tions was made plain when Guardi­ola, trussed up in a hoodie on the touch­line, sent on sub­sti­tutes: Ber­nando Silva, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gun­do­gan. His dugout ri­val, mean­while, sent on Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney and Eti­enne Capoue.

Be­fore we can com­plain about the hope­less in­jus­tice of life, it is only right to point out that, while City might have ac­cess to much of the world’s sup­ply of ready cash, if this is how they spend it few can com­plain.

Life in the old dog: Ser­gio Aguero - who has had his prob­lems with the City man­ager - has now scored in eight con­sec­u­tive away starts in the Premier League, one off the record

Over and rout: Ra­heem Ster­ling cel­e­brates scor­ing Manch­ester City’s sixth and fi­nal goal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.