They won comfortably enough in the end. And beautifully enough, too. Manchester City almost always win beautifully. Raheem Sterling’s second goal in the 3-1 victory over Watford was a tap-in after a typical piece of majestic play from David Silva. His third was a virtuoso’s dance through a packed defence a delicate finish that deceived Ben Foster.
But over all the beauty lay a shadow. With City mired in controversy over allegations about attempts to circumvent Financial Fair Play rules and other practices that have encouraged an alphabet soup of authorities to open investigations into them, that was inevitable before this game kicked off.
In the circumstances, the last thing City needed was another inquest, this time over something that happened on the pitch, but that is what they got. When they are locked in a title race with Liverpool that is so close that every point and every goal is important, it was also inevitable that their first goal should invite fierce scrutiny.
Raheem Sterling took a David Silva pass inside the box, then he cut inside before clipping the ball home for his hat-trick
Manchester City were struggling to find the breakthrough in the first half which ended goalless but dominated the second
Sterling’s third effort of the evening was a stunning solo goal in which he weaved in and out of the Watford defence