Belfast Telegraph

Scorer Zab hails Manchester City as Watford win takes the heat off Pep

Manchester City 2 Watford 0

By Andy Hampson

Pablo Zabaleta's first goal for two years and a late David Silva strike fired Pep Guardiola's Manchester City to a much-needed, but unconvincing, 2-0 win over Watford.

Defender Zabaleta struck from close range after 33 minutes of a dull contest at the Etihad Stadium with Silva wrapping up victory four minutes from time.

Raheem Sterling also hit the bar but City lacked spark throughout and Silva's goal came just moments after Odion Ighalo spurned a good chance to level.

But after a disappointing run, the result earned City some relief. It was their first win in four games and their first at home in the league for almost three months.

Zabaleta said: "It has been a long time without a win playing at home, it has been strange.

"It was not the prettiest game but we had determination to win the game. We had the clean sheet we've been talking about and were solid defensively. We were really good at the back and we took our chances."

On his goal he added: "As a full-back you go into a game thinking you have to defend but when you have the chance to go forward, especially at the far post and attack the space, it is good. It was a great cross from Kevin de Bruyne and a good finish for a full-back!"

City's clean sheet - a first in nine games - was also welcomed and came after manager Pep Guardiola left £47.5m defender John Stones on the bench.

Additionally, City did not have to deal with Watford's dangerman Troy Deeney until the latter stages as boss Walter Mazzarri appeared to prioritise the weekend game at Sunderland.

City started positively enough and De Bruyne brought a good save from Heurelho Gomes before Nolito, given the chance up front in the continued absence of the suspended Sergio Aguero, headed over. But aside from those early flourishes, the opening half was a largely sluggish affair with City dominating possession but creating few chances. Nolito sliced a half-chance wide and Yaya Toure drove another effort over but quality was generally lacking. That changed just after the half-hour as De Bruyne produced some nice touches on the left and then delivered a deep cross for the inrushing Zabaleta to turn home at the back post.

City might have then looked to move through the gears but their momentum was halted by an injury to Ilkay Gundogan. The midfielder appeared to twist his knee in a tackle.

City finally wrapped up the points late on after Silva robbed Adlene Guedioura and released Sterling before taking a return pass and clipping home.

But Gundogan is now set to miss several months of action.

"I'm so, so sad and unhappy for what happened to Ilkay Gundogan. We're going to miss him I think for a long time, it is the worst news from the day," Guardiola said. Asked if the player was looking at a prolonged spell out of the side Guardiola said: "The doctor supposes yes but we will know tomorrow. I think so."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph