Match ends, Watford 0, Manchester City 4.
Watford 0-4 Man City: Raheem Sterling deepens Hornets' drop fears
Watford failed to ease their relegation fears in the wake of Nigel Pearson's surprise sacking as they were hammered by a Raheem Sterling-inspired Manchester City.
Defeat means the Hornets' battle to stay up will go to the final day of the season on Sunday, when they visit Arsenal.
Pearson became the Hornets' third managerial casualty of the campaign on Monday, leaving Under-23 coach Hayden Mullins and his assistant Graham Stack in charge for their final two games.
And they could hardly have had a tougher first assignment than against City, who completed the double over them with this win, at an aggregate score of 12-0 - a joint top-flight record for one team against another in a single season.
Sterling took the game away from the home side before half-time, firing in a rising shot to open the scoring before doubling the advantage by following up his own saved penalty - awarded for a foul on him by Will Hughes.
Phil Foden added a third after Ben Foster had parried a Sterling shot before Aymeric Laporte nodded in from Kevin de Bruyne's free-kick.
City's fourth straight league win could have been even more emphatic but Gabriel Jesus had an injury-time header ruled out for offside.
This could well be important to Watford, with goal difference potentially a crucial deciding factor going into the weekend.
The defeat leaves the Hornets 17th, three points above Aston Villa and Bournemouth - all three clubs have the same goal difference of -27.
A Villa victory over Arsenal later on Tuesday will mean the Hornets start Sunday in the bottom three, with their fate no longer in their own hands.
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Watford down and possibly out
Pearson's sacking came out of the blue, as the former Leicester boss was still within sight of securing Premier League survival - the remit given to him on his appointment in December.
Having taken over with the club seven points adrift at the bottom of the table, he won seven of 20 matches - results that not only lifted them out of the bottom three but also gave him the best win percentage of any Watford boss since they were promoted in 2015.
Pearson, though, is now the past and Mullins, his players and the rest of the club are left to consider a worrying present and potentially devastating future.
They were outclassed by City, barely allowed a kick in what amounted to an exercise in damage limitation from the moment the visitors broke the deadlock.
They were allowed just 23.7% possession and managed just two shots at goal, neither on target. The only time they threatened in any way was when substitute Danny Welbeck got in behind the City defence but saw a tame, poked effort saved by Ederson.
That goalkeeper Foster was the Watford player who attempted the most passes (29) tells a story in itself.
So too does the fact their team pass total was a paltry 232, against the visitors' 750. City midfielder Rodri alone made 131.
All they can do now is hope that Villa fail to get a result against Arsenal and that they can then get something themselves against a Gunners side who beat City just a few days ago.
Man City's perfect pick-me-up
This was a wounded Manchester City, who at the weekend saw another road to a trophy blocked courtesy of that FA Cup semi-final defeat by Arsenal.
They couldn't have asked for better opponents to get things back on track.
Watford haven't beaten City in 18 games in all competitions - a run stretching back to March 1989, and one that includes a 6-0 loss in last season's FA Cup final and an 8-0 thrashing in September's reverse league fixture.
City now have a 13th straight win against the Hornets, during which the aggregate score is 50-6, and they barely seemed to get out of second gear to achieve it.
Sterling tormented the home side and De Bruyne and Foden beguiled them, while full-backs Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo operated practically as forwards.
Having got just one of their 16 shots on target against Arsenal at Wembley, they managed a much healthier ratio of 10 out of 26 at Vicarage Road.
They have accrued a league-high 21 points since the restart and scored a division-best 29 goals.
It is this form that they will hope to take into their final league fixture against Norwich on Sunday and then into the remainder of a Champions League campaign that now feels vital to provide a successful cap to their season.
Man of the match - Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Gulf in class underlined by goal difference
- Manchester City have scored 12 goals against Watford in the Premier League this season without conceding once - this goal difference of 12 over the two fixtures is the largest in the top flight since 1947-48, when Arsenal also scored 12 without reply against Grimsby Town.
- Hayden Mullins is the first manager to see his side fail to score in each of his first three Premier League games since Frank de Boer with Crystal Palace in 2017-18 (four games).
- Manchester City have scored 12 goals against Watford in the Premier League this season, a joint-record for most goals against an opponent in a single campaign in the competition - Blackburn put 12 past Nottingham Forest in 1995-96 (conceding one) and Tottenham did so against Wigan in 2009-10 (also conceding one).
- Since Watford returned to the Premier League in 2015-16, they have conceded 37 league goals against Manchester City, at least seven more than any side has conceded against another in this fixture in this time.
- Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne registered his 19th league assist of the season, equalling Mesut Ozil in 2015-16 and one behind Thierry Henry's league record of 20 in 2002-03.
- In Phil Foden's 16 starts in all competitions for Manchester City in 2019-20, he has been directly involved in 14 goals (six goals and eight assists).
- Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster has lost on each of his past 13 starts against Manchester City in the Premier League, the longest run of defeats by a starting player against a specific side in Premier League history.
- Raheem Sterling's penalty, the rebound for which he scored, was the fifth Manchester City have missed in the Premier League this season; no side have ever missed more in a single Premier League campaign (Liverpool in 2011-12 and Spurs in 1994-95 also missed five each).
- Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has made 143 changes to their starting XIs in the Premier League this season, the most by any manager in a single season in the competition's history.
- 6MariappaBooked at 80mins
- 16DoucouréSubstituted forChalobahat 82'minutes
- 19HughesBooked at 90mins
- 37PereyraSubstituted forMasinaat 87'minutes
- 9DeeneySubstituted forWelbeckat 67'minutes
- 17João Pedro
- 2WalkerSubstituted forZinchenkoat 64'minutes
- 14LaporteSubstituted forStonesat 74'minutes
- 17De Bruyne
- 20Bernardo Silva
- 9Gabriel Jesus
- 7SterlingSubstituted forMahrezat 64'minutes
- Michael Oliver
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Watford 0, Manchester City 4.
Offside, Manchester City. João Cancelo tries a through ball, but Gabriel Jesus is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Phil Foden (Manchester City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Will Hughes (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Phil Foden (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Will Hughes (Watford).
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford).
Foul by Rodrigo (Manchester City).
Will Hughes (Watford) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Offside, Manchester City. Kevin De Bruyne tries a through ball, but Oleksandr Zinchenko is caught offside.
Substitution, Watford. Adam Masina replaces Roberto Pereyra.
Offside, Watford. Ben Foster tries a through ball, but Roberto Pereyra is caught offside.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Ismaila Sarr (Watford).
Substitution, Watford. Nathaniel Chalobah replaces Abdoulaye Doucouré.
Attempt blocked. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Bernardo Silva.
Adrian Mariappa (Watford) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Phil Foden (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.