Manchester City put the pressure in the Premier League title race back on Liverpool on Saturday thanks to four Gabriel Jesus goals in a thumping 5-1 victory over Watford at the Etihad Stadium.
With Liverpool not in action until Sunday afternoon’s Merseyside derby, City’s lead at the top of the table overnight is extended to four points.
Jesus stole the show, but Rodri also scored an outstanding goal. Meanwhile, Hassane Kamara had briefly given Watford some hope he finished an impressive move in the first half.
Pep Guardiola’s side needed only a few minutes to break the deadlock against Roy Hodgson’s struggling Hornets. The returning Jesus was on hand only a few yards from goal to turn in Oleksandr Zinchenko’s assist.
City could have increased their lead before they actually did, with Ben Foster making a double save from Joao Cancelo and Jesus. But despite dominating possession, that chance had come after Zinchenko’s last-ditch tackle prevented Emmanuel Dennis going one-on-one with Ederson.
The second goal came when Kevin De Bruyne whipped an undefendable cross into the box, with Jesus unmarked to meet it with his head and nod the ball in.
It was at that point when Watford pulled one back. Joshua King dragged Ruben Dias out of position, Dennis saw the run of Kamara into that newly vacant space and played in the full-back, whose composed finish was fired low past Ederson.
But the reduced deficit didn’t last. Jesus recovered possession high on the right, finding Rodri. The Spaniard stepped in front of a stricken De Bruyne on the ground to control the ball on his chest and lash a power drive into the top corner from outside the penalty area.
Jesus completed his hat-trick with a penalty immediately after half-time when he was rewarded for his persistence and strength to hold off Kamara, before being upended by Foster. With only three Premier League goals to his name all season prior to kick-off, the Brazilian then joined an elite club of players to record a four-goal haul when he turned in a De Bruyne pass for an easy finish.
Four goals up and cruising, Guardiola was able to start resting players with an eye on facing Real Madrid on Tuesday, with De Bruyne, Rodri and Laporte all replaced relatively early.
There was still time for City to search for another. Cancelo, Jack Grealish and substitute Riyad Mahrez all had late efforts, but 5-1 was how it finished.
Man City vs Watford: Player ratings - Premier League
1. Man City (4-3-3)
GK: Ederson - 6/10 - Largely a spectator.
RB: Joao Cancelo - 7/10 - Showed his usual energy levels and felt he had a penalty appeal in the first half. Brought a good save from Foster.
CB: Ruben Dias - 6/10 - Passed with almost perfect accuracy.
CB: Aymeric Laporte - 5/10 - Didn't cover across quick enough when Kamara was played in to pull one back.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko - 8/10 - Provided the early assist. But soon also made a vital last-man tackle at 1-0 to preserve that lead.
DM: Fernandinho (c) - 7/10 - Functional, calm and composed.
CM: Rodri - 8/10 - Restored his team's two-goal advantage with a thunderous strike that will be a contender for goal of the month.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne - 9/10 - Unbelievable cross to lay on City's second goal. Also set up the fifth and was heavily involved throughout his time on the pitch. Withdrawn early with the job done.
RW: Gabriel Jesus - 10/10 - Two goals and assist in the first 35 minutes on his return to the starting XI. Completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after drawing the foul himself.
ST: Jack Grealish - 4/10 - Given that his team ran riot, he should have done far more than he did. Largely invisible.
LW: Raheem Sterling - 6/10 - Missed a glorious chance in the first half, blazing over from the middle of the area. Looked sharp though.
SUB: Ilkay Gundogan (57' for De Bruyne) - 7/10
SUB: Nathan Ake (63' for Laporte) - 6/10
SUB: Riyad Mahrez (70' for Rodri) - 6/10
2. Watford (4-3-3)
GK: Ben Foster - 5/10 - Made an important save at 1-0 but stood little chance with the goals that flew past him.
RB: Jeremy Ngakia - 5/10 - Could he have done more to challenge Jesus when the Brazilian got his second? Worked hard.
CB: Samir - 4/10 - Found it tough not facing up against a proper striker. Taken off with more than 20 minutes left.
CB: Christian Kabasele - 5/10 - Slightly better than his defensive partner.
LB: Hassane Kamara - 6/10 - Finished like a seasoned striker for his goal, although he wasn't strong enough to hold off Jesus when the Brazilian went through to win City's early second half penalty.
CM: Moussa Sissoko (c) - 4/10 - Has often carried this team but lumbered about the pitch to little effect.
CM: Imran Louza - 3/10 - Not strong enough in the tackle or quick enough to loose balls.
CM: Tom Cleverley - 5/10 - Tried to compete but clearly second best.
RW: Ismaila Sarr - 4/10 - Saw very little of the ball and had practically no impact on the game.
ST: Joshua King - 6/10 - Involved in his team's goal with some intelligent movement out to the left to make space in the middle.
LW: Emmanuel Dennis - 7/10 - Offered a clear threat for Watford on an otherwise difficult afternoon. Worked hard and assisted Kamara's goal.
SUB: Joao Pedro (688' for Sarr) - 6/10
SUB: Craig Cathcart (68' for Samir) - 6/10
SUB: Edo Kayembe (75' for Louza) - 5/10