Pep Guardiola saluted “fantastic” Gabriel Jesus after the Brazilian scored four times when Manchester City crushed Watford 5-1 to put them four points clear of the Premier League title on Saturday. Jesus stole the show at the Etihad Stadium with the first Premier League game to score three or more goals in his career. The attacker had only scored once in the league since September, but he ripped Watford to shreds with a predatory display of finishing. He struck twice in the first half before Watford’s Hassane Kamara narrowed the deficit for a while. Rodri restored City’s lead of two goals and Jesus grabbed two more after halftime to complete the defeat. “It’s amazing. Sometimes you play so well and you don’t score and sometimes it is and you score all the chances you have,” Jesus said.
“I’m glad it was my day. This is the best moment of the season. When you decide the games and win the trophies. That’s what football is to us.”
After losing to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-finals last weekend, Guardiola’s team have shown their determination to retain the title.
They sent Brighton 3-0 away on Wednesday and their demolition of second bottom Watford keeps the pressure on second-placed Liverpool.
Jürgen Klopp’s men could narrow the gap to one point if they beat struggling Everton in Sunday’s Merseyside derby at Anfield.
In a thrilling title race that looks destined to end, City have five more league games to go as they hunt for a fourth English crown in five years.
Their walk against Watford was the ideal preparation for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid in Manchester.
“If there’s one person who deserves the best in life, it’s Gabriel. It doesn’t matter what position he plays in, we know how he fights for his friends. He’s fantastic,” said Guardiola.
“We had a ‘final’ today and we won it. Now we have the chance to play a ‘final’ against Leeds.
“Nothing changes. We have to win all five games to become champions.”
Guardiola made six changes from the Brighton game, with Ruben Dias replacing the injured John Stones for his first start since March 1 following a hamstring injury.
– incessant city –
Since the 0-0 draw at the Etihad in 2006, Watford had lost on each of their previous seven visits, totaling 25-2 to City.
They haven’t beaten City since 1989 and it took Guardiola’s men just four minutes to assert their superiority.
Joao Cancelo’s cross reached Oleksandr Zinchenko and he selected the unmarked Jesus, who timed his run to finish from close range.
City’s early dominance was interrupted by a dangerous counterattack from Watford, as Emmanuel Dennis shot clear before Zinchenko made a great tackle to avert the danger.
The champions had 80 percent of the ball and that relentless pressure paid off in the 23rd minute.
Kevin De Bruyne was the maker with an inch-perfect cross and Jesus provided the finishing touch with an agile header.
Watford pulled one back against the run of play five minutes later.
Dennis tapped a pass into Kamara’s path and the Ivorian hit a low attack that should have been easy for City keeper Ederson, who somehow let it slip past his feeble save.
Rodri eased City’s sudden terror in the 34th minute as the Spanish midfielder hit a blistering volley from long range into the top corner.
City were back in the groove and they struck again in the 49th minute when Jesus caught Kamara’s foul and was knocked down by Foster.
Jesus straightened to take the dot and slid past Foster to complete his treble.
The 25-year-old was not ready yet and scored for the fourth time after 53 minutes.
Jack Grealish, Jesus and De Bruyne combined in a blur of passes that left Watford stunned before the Brazilian capped off the fluid movement with a deadly finish.
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