Kevin De Bruyne made a dramatic return to action as Manchester City eased back to winning ways with a convincing 3-1 victory over Watford.
The Belgian did not score but was the main architect as the Premier League leaders overcame Sunday’s rare blip at Crystal Palace with strikes from Raheem Sterling – after less than a minute – Sergio Aguero and a Christian Kabasele own goal.
De Bruyne had been highly doubtful for the clash at the Etihad Stadium after being carried off in the goalless draw at Selhurst Park – which ended City’s record-breaking run of 18 successive wins – but he played as if he had not been hurt at all.
Watford were outplayed by City for a second time this season, following a 6-0 hammering in September, but did manage a late consolation from Andre Gray on a cold and wet night.
What they said
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said: “We are going to check it out (Kyle Walker injury). What everyone saw in the last weeks, how many injuries the players have. We are going to kill them. I think the federation have to reflect. Everyone is in that business for the players. The people come here to watch and enjoy the performance of the players. Here in England, we don’t protect the players and that is a big mistake. You have to look for the quality, not the quantity. You can play every three, four or five days but not play every two days. It is not basketball, it is not tennis. The players need recovery.”
Watford boss Marco Silva said: “To come here to compete and to do our best to take a good result is impossible when we start the game like we started. We didn’t start the game with enough aggressiveness in our defensive organisation, we made everything too easy for City. The first minute of the match it was clear what you cannot do at this level.”
Tweet of the match
Star man – Kevin De Bruyne
Probably the best news of the night for City was that De Bruyne was fit to start after Jason Puncheon’s horror tackle. And the Belgian was at the heart of nearly all City’s best moments. He would have had a goal, too, but for a fine save from Heurelho Gomes, who tipped his first-half free-kick onto the bar.
Stat of the match
When Kabasele turned in De Bruyne’s cross he became only the seventh player in Premier League history to suffer the misfortune of scoring an own goal in the 13th minute of a game.
Moment of the match
After the disappointment of seeing their winning run come to an end on Sunday, an early goal was just what City wanted, and it could scarcely have come any earlier or been any more simple. Just 38 seconds after kick-off, Leroy Sane sprinted away down the left and crossed for Sterling to tap into an empty net.
RatingsManchester City: Ederson 7 (out of 10), Kyle Walker 7, Nicolas Otamendi 6, John Stones 7, Fabian Delph 6, Fernandinho 6, David Silva 7, Kevin De Bruyne 8, Raheem Sterling 7, Leroy Sane 7, Sergio Aguero 7. Subs: Danilo (for Stones, 67) 5, Yaya Toure (for Fernandinho, 71) 5, Bernardo Silva (for De Bruyne, 79) 5.Watford: Heurelho Gomes 6, Daryl Janmaat 6, Molla Wague 5, Christian Kabasele 6, Marvin Zeegelaar 5, Abdoulaye Doucoure 5, Ben Watson 5, Andre Carrillo 5, Etienne Capoue 5, Richarlison 5, Andre Gray 6. Subs: Tom Cleverley (for Capoue, 61) 6, Roberto Pereyra (for Watson, 61) 6, Jerome Sinclair (for Richarlison, 82) 5.
Who’s up next?
Manchester City v Burnley (FA Cup, January 6)
Watford v Bristol City (FA Cup, January 6)