Manchester City set a club record of 10 successive league victories by maintaining their 100 per cent start to the season with a 2-0 win over Watford at Eastlands on Saturday.
Raheem Sterling’s first competitive goal for City since his A?49 million ($75.4 million, 67.4 million euros) move from Liverpool set up the win early in the second half, before Fernandinho added a second with a fierce drive to end the newly-promoted visitors’ unbeaten league start.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side are three points clear at the top of the table after winning their first four league matches of the season without conceding a goal.
Manchester City have won a club record 10 successive league games
The run of 10 victories, stretching back to April, beat a record set in 1912.
They were patient in breaking down a dogged but limited Watford side, and by the end of the match were showing the attacking verve which has made them the early favourites to win the title.
City are about to add to that threat with the A?52 million signing from Wolfsburg of Kevin De Bruyne, who flew into Manchester on Saturday for a medical, and his arrival is bound to sharpen up a side who struggled in the first half despite plenty of possession.
Pellegrini had warned in his programme notes that Quique Flores would bring a disciplined, hard-working side to Eastlands and he was proved right.
Watford were well-organised and difficult to break down, with Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami working hard in midfield to shield the back four.
Pellegrini’s side had to be patient, even as they enjoyed plenty of possession, but after a frustrating opening 20 minutes, they began to create chances.
Aleksandar Kolarov lifted a free kick over the bar and, moments later, Craig Cathcart got across to block when Fernandinho and Yaya Toure combined to send in Raheem Sterling down the right.
Gradually, City began to find cracks in Watford’s defence and Heurelho Gomes saved the visitors twice in quick succession just before the half-hour mark.
Firstly, the former Tottenham goalkeeper got down quickly to hold Bacary Sagna’s snap shot after Vincent Kompany had touched a Jesus Navas corner into his path.
Then Gomes got lucky, with Sterling racing clear to shoot under the ‘keeper, whose touch did just enough to turn the ball wide as it squirmed beyond his dive.
Fernandinho’s industry matched the prodigious work rate of Watford’s midfielders, and he nipped in moments before half-time to dispossess Almen Abdi and play in Sergio Aguero, who showed wonderful speed of thought and technique on the edge of the penalty area to shoot just wide on the turn.
Pellegrini withdrew Navas at half-time in an attacking reshuffle, switching David Silva to the right and bringing on Samir Nasri.
Sterling and Fernandinho got on the score sheet for Manchester City
Within 90 seconds of the restart, his team were in front, with Silva involved.
The Spain international played a pass wide for Sagna to cross in low and Sterling burst between Cathcart and Sebastian Prodl to turn in his first City goal from six yards.
It was a goal that visibly deflated Watford, and gave Pellegrini’s side the platform on which to secure victory.
A second goal followed nine minutes later, with Silva a part of it once more.
Yaya Toure bounced a free kick off the visitors’ wall, and Fernandinho nodded forward to Silva, before collecting the playmaker’s clever reverse pass down the right and drilling a shot across Gomes into the far corner from a tight angle.
Thereafter, City saw out the win comfortably, aside from one scare when Troy Deeney was played through for Watford, and Sagna made a fine block.
Toure almost added a third when he steered a Kolarov left-wing cutback wide from the edge of the penalty area, and Gomes then needed to be alert to beat away a Nasri effort.