WATFORD, January 2 – Manchester City maintained their Premier League title challenge after ending their away-day blues with a stirring late comeback that saw them win 2-1 at Watford on Saturday.
Two goals in as many minutes from talismans Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero kept City in touch at the top of the table when it appeared that they were destined for defeat.
Aleksandar Kolarov had headed Ben Watson’s corner into his own net and the visitors were struggling for ideas before Toure and Aguero struck in quick succession to steal victory.
It was City’s first win on the road since September 12 and kept them three points behind leaders Arsenal.
Despite the shadow of Pep Guardiola looming large over Manuel Pellegrini, the Manchester City manager has been tipped by his Watford counterpart Quique Sanchez Flores to win the league title.
Whether the Chilean will still in be in charge at the Etihad Stadium come next season, with or without winning the championship, remains to be seen.
But his team find themselves playing catch-up after a woeful away run that had seen them collect just three points from their previous six games on the road.
They knew they could ill-afford a repeat failure against a Watford side who have surprised many this season.
But Almen Abdi, one of the few Watford goal-scorers this season other than the prolific pairing of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, sounded an early warning when he drove just over within two minutes.
Ighalo almost began the new year how he had ended 2015 when he came close to scoring for the seventh game in succession in the 13th minute.
The Nigerian striker’s clever turn saw him wriggle clear of Nicolas Otamendi, but his low shot was kept out by Joe Hart’s outstretched foot.
City boast a plethora of attacking options, but were struggling to find any fluency or provide Aguero with any service.
However, the Argentine striker was inches away from handing the visitors a 19th-minute lead when he narrowly failed to connect with a header after Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes repelled a shot by Kevin De Bruyne.
– Watson resumes City torment –
The visitors were slowly finding their feet, Fernando seeing his close-range shot blocked by Gomes following David Silva’s slaloming run.
But it was Watford who ended the half on top and almost began the second half by drawing first blood inside 90 seconds.
Watson, who scored a sensational FA Cup final winner against City for old club Wigan Athletic in 2013, almost caught Hart out with a shot that the England goalkeeper had to parry at his near post.
Fernando threatened again when he headed over Silva’s 51st-minute corner, but it was Watford who went ahead moments later via a corner of their own.
Watson whipped a wicked delivery towards the near post and Kolarov contrived to glance the ball past a helpless Hart and into the net.
A sixth defeat of the league campaign beckoned for City, but belatedly the big-spending visitors began to move through the gears.
Toure blazed over from De Bruyne’s cut-back and then the Belgian winger forced a low save out of Gomes in the 70th minute as Pellegrini’s men looked to crank up the pressure.
Watford withstood the initial flurry of attacks and could have wrapped up the win if Etienne Capoue had not blazed wildly over following a surging run with 10 minutes remaining.
And it proved costly as Toure’s superb first-time volley from Kolarov’s 82nd-minute corner hauled the visitors level.
Two minutes later the turnaround was complete. Bacary Sagna’s inviting cross from the right found the unmarked Aguero, who headed home his 10th goal of the season.