Javi Gracia defends decision to make seven changes for Watford’s Premier League game away at Manchester City
Raheem Sterling’s quick-fire second-half hat-trick sent Manchester City four points clear at the top of the Premier League, but there was controversy over the opener that broke down a stubborn Watford side.
Sterling’s first goal, 40 seconds after half-time, was initially ruled out for offside but after a long discussion, referee Paul Tierney overturned his own decision, with Daryl Janmaat’s attempted block just before Sterling struck ruled as having played the winger onside.
Janmaat’s involvement did not change some basic facts, namely that Sterling had been offside from Agüero’s flick-on and was going for the ball, prominently involved in play. Yet Tierney came away from a lengthy discussion with his assistant, Adrian Holmes, by deciding to overrule the original decision and declare Sterling was, in fact, onside. Confused? Well, join the club. Javi Gracia, the Watford manager, tries not to be a critic of referees and showed commendable restraint afterwards, noting only his belief it was very much the wrong decision. As for Guardiola, he pointed out that English football should have had VAR in place long before now.
After the floodgates opened in the second half, Watford did strike back with one goal, coming from the first two touches of their two substitutes, introduced moments earlier on 65 minutes. Troy Deeney’s flick-on was finished well by Gerard Deulofeu.
Like the majority of Watford fans, I don’t travel to places like City expecting anything out of the game, so the fact that the home side had the vast majority of the possession and Watford had only the single shot on target came as no surprise. Unlike the trip to Liverpool, Watford were more effective in defence and, had the referee not interfered, the result may have been more favourable.