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It is reported by Sky Sport that Sterling's first-half double put City in control, with his superb opener (31) added to when he slotted home the rebound after Ben Foster saved his initial penalty (40).
Phil Foden grabbed City's third in the 63rd minute to better his goal tally of seven from last season before Aymeric Laporte headed in a simple fourth as the hosts capitulated (66).
|Sterling fires Manchester City ahead at Watford with a fabulous strike Photo: Sky Sport|
In this absorbing race for survival, Watford later slipped into the relegation zone on goal difference with Aston Villa's 1-0 win over Arsenal enough to move them out of the bottom three.
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Pep Guardiola's City side, already assured of second place, secured a fourth consecutive league win for the first time this campaign to move onto 78 points to help erase the memory of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal.
How City kept Watford in the perilous position
Watford remains in the thick of the relegation battle. Friday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham - and "frank exchange" with the owner Gino Pozzo - cost Nigel Pearson his job over the weekend.
Having been placed as interim head coach for the second time this season, this always looked an intimidating prospect for Hayden Mullins; City entered the game on a 12-game winning run against Watford, scoring 46 goals in those matches - including an 8-0 win at the Etihad back in September, reported BBC News.
The visitors effectively had nothing to play for, assured of a spot in next season's Champions League, but having enjoyed 88 percent possession inside the opening 10 minutes, it was Watford who had the game's first chance as Will Hughes dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box following a poor clearance from Joao Cancelo.
|Raheem Sterling double deepens Hornets' relegation fears Photo: Sky Sport|
But City very nearly took the lead moments later when Bernardo Silva found Rodri in space 30 yards out, and his speculative drive looped off the back of Gabriel Jesus and forced Foster into a fine one-handed save.
Two goals in the space of four minutes compounded the hosts' misery, however, as, after Foster kept out Sterling's initial effort, the ball broke loose for Foden to tap in his eighth goal of the campaign. The hosts were by now looking sorry for themselves, and De Bruyne's free-kick was headed home unmarked by Laporte with a third of the match still to play.
Ben Foster says Watford confidence is 'crazy low' as side slip into the drop zone
Ben Foster has described Watford’s confidence as “crazy low” after they were beaten 4-0 at home by Manchester City on an evening when they slipped to third from bottom in the Premier League table.
The only consolation for them during the game was that the scoreline was not heavier. The city hogged 76% of possession and had 25 shots to Watford’s two. But Watford, who sacked Nigel Pearson on Sunday and are now under the caretaker charge of Hayden Mullins, entered full panic mode later on Tuesday when Aston Villa secured a vital 1-0 home win against Arsenal, according to the Guardian.
Ben Foster says Watford confidence is 'crazy low' as side slip into the drop zone Photo: Bleacher Report
That result means Watford have fallen below their relegation rivals by a goal difference of one (-26 to Villa’s -27) ahead of the final round of fixtures on Sunday.
“I don’t think we helped ourselves,” said Foster, the only Watford player to emerge with credit. “I don’t think we did enough to do anything but what the result suggested. The confidence is so crazy – crazy low. I don’t know why it should be but you get into a state of trying to minimize as much damage as you can and it’s a dangerous way to do things. They’re Man City. They’re very, very good.”
“You can’t ever blame it on anything but your own performances. We have to look at ourselves. We’ve got a massive game on Sunday and that’s all we’ve got to look at now”, he added.
Man of the match – Rodri
Sterling's goals will grab the headlines, but Rodri bossed this game in the middle of the park, completing more passes (65) than the entire Watford team in the opening half (55).
The precision in his distribution continued in the Hertfordshire summer sunshine as he completed 125 of his 131 passes. The 24-year-old also made more tackles (4) and regained possession (11) more times than any of his team-mates.
|Rodri had 144 touches of the ball at Vicarage Road - more than any other player Photo: Sky Sport|
"He's been unspectacular but really efficient with his passing," Alan Smith said on commentary to Sky Sports. "Where he did do well was competing with Troy Deeney in the first half, standing in front of the big center-forward. It's been a really good performance."
Watford's interim head coach Hayden Mullins made two changes. Adrian Mariappa and Roberto Pereyra were restored to the starting XI after Friday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham while Adam Masina and Danny Welbeck were named among the substitutes.
Man City manager Pep Guardiola showed off his depth again and handed starts to Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Phil Foden, and Bernardo Silva following their FA Cup exit. Benjamin Mendy, Ilkay Gundogan, Riyad Mahrez, and David Silva were the foursome to drop to the bench after starting Saturday's 2-0 loss to Arsenal.
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