“It’s all about nailing down that 3rd placed finish,” said one of the the Sky Sports pundits as the final battle for an automatic Champions League place commenced.
Liverpool, 1-0 up at half time, Arsenal 2-0 up at the break. It was vital City took no prisoners at Vicarage Road. What happened next, a 4-0 romp by half-time – sheer ruthlessness.
Arguably City’s best first half performance of the season, the ingenuity of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in midfield was only matched by the tenacity of Guardiola’s front three.
Walter Mazzari’s final game in charge of Watford couldn’t be going any worse, everyone expected more of the same second half – and a bird on the pitch momentarily delaying the action was all but welcomed.
Unfortunately, it didn’t delay his nightmare for long. Gabriel Jesus’ class made it 5-0, and from then on it was a training exercise despite a couple of attempts by Watford to reduce the embarrassment.
Third place secured, the race is over and Guardiola’s men end the season on a much needed high. Here are the ratings from a memorable afternoon:
Willy Caballero – 7
The Argentine had nothing to do in the first half, yet remained composed once the second period began; athletically tipping away a stinging Okaka drive just a minute after the re-start. From then on, composed goalkeeping when dealing with slight pressure ensued.
Fernandinho – 7
Placed in the right back role again, he displayed professionalism and vigour typical to that of his usual prowess. Up against the stocky frames of Niang and Okaka, the Brazilian did well to mute their impact – despite one mistake that let Niang in on goal. His presence when shifting into midfield on the ball, going forward, and the fact he bundled his way onto the scoresheet shows he is deserving of this rating.
Vincent Kompany – 8
Marshalling the back four to victory yet again since his return to the side, the Belgian was superb in dealing with the gigantic Okaka up front. His performances always embody enthusiasm, constantly looking for the best option. He even added to his goal tally this season with yet another bullet header, brilliantly taken despite being left unmarked.
Nicolas Otamendi – 7
Clearing a Watford chance off the line, nobody can argue that this tenacious centre-back has been born again partnering Vincent Kompany. Often tasked with cleaning up the remaining messes, the Argentine did just that – his distribution and calmness on the ball also can’t be faulted, but he was given little to test him.
Gael Clichy – 6
Got forward well and provided width for the likes of Silva and Jesus to pick out. The Frenchman wasn’t particularly tested that much but dealt with whatever thrown at him. A composed performance but not that much in the way of impact.
Kevin De Bruyne – 9
In the last few games, De Bruyne’s impact has doubled – and this performance was the icing on the cake. Despite a tailing off slightly when the blues gained a comfortable a 5-0 lead, the Belgian was the vocal point of a ruthless attacking performance. Picking out Aguero for the second goal with a crisp, precise through ball and linking up with David Silva for devastating effect. Five stars.
Yaya Touré – 7
The Ivorian did his usual: organise the start of attacks, provide a physical presence going forward and use his experience in dealing with potential threats. Since his re-introduction, Yaya has been pivotal to setting up a style of play that often proves unstoppable. Blues can only hope he gets another year in the side.
David Silva – 8
Silva’s performance echoed his midfield attacking partner, De Bruyne, in pin-pointing great runs and dictating the creation of chances. The Spaniard set up the third goal beautifully, sending a perfectly weighted ball on the outside to Leroy Sane who fed goal scorer Aguero. Not much you can fault atoll, what a season he has had.
Leroy Sane – 7
Had a real say in one of the goals with a superb run on the outside channel which David Silva picked out, allowing the German to surge into the box and feed Aguero for the third goal. Displaying intent throughout the hour he played, this was a great way to sign off for the season.
Gabriel Jesus – 8
Worked hard all game and at times he was ludicrously unselfish in his link up play with Aguero. His class shone through when he got on the scoresheet, flicking the ball over Gomes after a worldly touch to present the opportunity.
Sergio Aguero – 9 (Man of the Match)
Should’ve had a hat-trick, or more, missing a sitter after brilliant play down the left. It really is a toss up between him, Silva and De Bruyne for the Man of the Match Award, but I’ll give it to Kun.
He calmly and instinctively buried the 2nd goal, feeding off a needle pass from De Bruyne. Just minutes later, he was yet again in the right place at the right time for a tap in. His search for a goal in the second period showed no sign of ending, forcing saves from Gomes on more than one occasion before being taken off for a deserved rest. World class performance from Aguero.
Bacary Sagna – 6
Coming on for Yaya Touré as a permanent right back, allowing Fernandinho to switch to midfield, the out of contract full-back signed off his City career in the way he knows how – solidarity.
Jesus Navas – 6
Tried to make an impact going forward and worked tirelessly like always despite often slowing the flow down, especially on the counter attack. But expressed motivation to perform – what more can you ask of our Navas?
Kelechi Iheanacho – 6
Linked up well with the front men at times, but the Nigerian looked slightly rusty. He needs more game time to justify the performances he is capable of.