Raheem Sterling’s quickfire second-half hat-trick pulled apart stubborn Watford’s resistance as Manchester City went four points clear at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 victory.
Javi Gracia made seven changes to his Watford XI but the visitors proved miserly opponents as they frustrated Pep Guardiola’s defending champions during the opening 45 minutes.
The opening goal came within a minute of the restart and amid considerable offside controversy.
Sterling pounced with Watford still reeling from falling behind, netting from close range in the 50th minute and completing his treble before the hour.
Watford substitute Gerard Deulofeu reduced the deficit midway through the second half – something Liverpool must now do when they host Burnley at Anfield on Sunday.