MANCHESTER, March 10: Raheem Sterling struck a second half hat-trick as champions Manchester City put pressure on title rivals Liverpool with a 3-1 win over Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The win moved Premier League leaders City four points clear of Liverpool ahead of their home game against Burnley on Sunday — a match Juergen Klopp’s side can ill-afford not to win.
Watford manager Javi Gracia made seven changes to his side and let out key forwards Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu, and the visitors’ deep defending frustrated City in the opening half.
The decision came after his attempt to take on Liverpool at Anfield ended in a 5-0 loss last week and perhaps was also influenced by Watford’s FA Cup quarter-final against Crystal Palace next week.
As usual, Pep Guardiola’s side dominated possession but against such a bank of defenders showing no intention of pushing forward, the match was more like an ‘attack v defence’ training session.
Within a minute of the restart, however, Sterling put City ahead with a controversial goal that was initially ruled out for offside before referee Paul Tierney changed his mind after lengthy consultation with his assistant.
Once again, there was confusion about the current offside law and its interpretation with Watford players incensed — Sterling appeared to be in an offside position when played in by Sergio Aguero and the assistant referee had raised his flag. (Agencies)