LONDON, Sept 17: Although it’s taken a year longer than many expected, Manchester City is finally beginning to resemble a Pep Guardiola-coached team.
City remained in rampant form as it ended Watford’s unbeaten start to the English Premier League with a resounding 6-0 victory at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
Guardiola’s side has scored 15 goals in three matches since the international break, following 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Liverpool and Feyernood respectively.
City stuttered to a third-place finish in Guardiola’s debut season while failing to produce the stylish play of its manager’s former sides, but a second straight offseason of significant personnel changes appears to be paying dividends.
“It was so good, especially after an away game in the Champions League,” Guardiola said.
“I was lucky to manage Barcelona with many outstanding performances but this week has been a lot of goals. We have found our game, we can make short passes, and we have a lot of energy from our full backs.”
Sergio Aguero scored a predatory hat trick and laid on an assist for Gabriel Jesus, while Nicolas Otamendi headed in, and Raheem Sterling added a late penalty.
The victory took City to the top of the table, but Manchester United can join it on Sunday with a win over Everton.
Elsewhere, Liverpool failed to shake off the effects of last week’s thrashing by City, letting Burnley leave Anfield with a 1-1 draw. Crystal Palace became the first club in league history to lose its opening five games without scoring.
Swansea brought Tottenham back to earth in a scoreless draw at Wembley, three days after Spurs tore apart Borussia Dortmund. Newcastle made it three league wins a row by beating Stoke 3-1, Leicester and Huddersfield drew 1-1, and West Brom and West Ham played out a goalless draw.
AGUERO CLOSING IN
Having struggled at times last season, Aguero appears to have been revitalized by his partnership with Jesus and was at his predatory best as he completed the sixth Premier League hat trick of his career.
The Argentine forward is just three goals away from breaking Eric Brook’s 177-goal record at Man City.
“I am very happy,” Aguero said. “I am focused on scoring the next goal but what matters is that we won.”
NO MANE, MORE PROBLEMS
Philippe Coutinho made his first start of the season for Liverpool after failing to force a summer move to Barcelona, but his return wasn’t enough to fill the void left by the suspended Sadio Mane.
Liverpool struggled at times last season without Mane and it appears little has changed.
Summer recruit Mohamed Salah’s tying goal secured a point for the Reds but even he can’t match the brilliance of Mane, who is serving a three-match suspension after being sent off against Manchester City last weekend.
Burnley has picked up away points at three of last season’s top-six teams, beating Chelsea on opening day and drawing against Tottenham at Wembley.
Roy Hodgson’s first match in charge of Crystal Palace looked like the team’s previous four matches. In a 1-0 loss to Southampton, Steven Davis’ early goal proved decisive.
Hodgson has been out of management since Euro 2016, where his England side was eliminated by minnows Iceland.
Having become the first Premier League manager to be appointed in his 70s, Hodgson went for a return to a traditional four-man defense, but it took Southampton just six minutes to breach it.
WEMBLEY CURSE REMAINS
Tottenham is still looking for a first domestic victory of the season at its temporary Wembley Stadium home. Harry Kane struck the crossbar in the second half but Swansea displayed great resilience to hold on for 0-0.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs have failed to win all three league games at Wembley, where it’s playing while White Hart Lane is redeveloped this season.
DEFENDER SCORES AGAIN
Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles was an unlikely star for a second straight game as the defender headed home the winner against Stoke after Xherdan Shaqiri cancelled out Christian Atsu’s opener. Newcastle beat Stoke 3-1 at St. James’ Park.
Also, West Brom midfielder Gareth Barry equaled Ryan Giggs’ Premier League appearance record in his 632nd game. AP