Gabriel Jesus struck four times as Manchester City crushed Watford 5-1 to chalk off another win in their battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title.
The Brazilian also provided the assist for City’s other goal, a stunning strike by Rodri, as the champions increased their lead at the top of the table to four points.
Hassane Kamara did get on the scoresheet for the visitors but Roy Hodgson’s relegation-threatened side were no match for City, who were relentless and efficient in attack.
Seven points off safety and having played more games than the sides immediately above them, the Hornets are running out of time.
Such was City’s dominance they could ease off in the closing stages knowing the onus was now on Liverpool to respond against Everton on Sunday. It also gave them chance to conserve some energy ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Meanwhile Jesus could savour his fine riposte to speculation about his future in the light of strong reports linking City with Erling Haaland.
Pep Guardiola’s side have dished out plenty of punishment to Watford in recent years, not least in thrashing them 6-0 in the 2019 FA Cup final and then 8-0 and 4-0 the following season.
Watford had lost their previous 14 matches against City and not beaten them since 1989, and it soon became apparent that dismal record was only going to get worse.
“City needed just four minutes to force their way ahead. Joao Cancelo sent a deep cross to the left and Oleksandr Zinchenko pulled back across the six-yard line for Jesus, one of six changes made to the side by Guardiola, to pounce.
The Hornets spurned a glorious chance to equalise soon after when Cancelo lost possession. Emmanuel Dennis burst clean through and should have tested Ederson but dithered too long and Zinchenko raced back to tackle.
Cancelo almost made instant amends for that error as he got into a shooting position from a Jesus lay-off but Ben Foster pushed away his powerful strike.
City’s second came in the 23rd minute as Kevin De Bruyne yet again showed his mastery by curling in a brilliant cross from the right. It was so accurate that Jesus’ task of nodding in was relatively simple.
Despite their dominance, City were still prone to the occasional defensive lapse and another slip allowed Watford to pull one back against the run of play.
Dennis flicked a fine pass into the path of Kamara and the Ivorian lashed a low left-footed shot through the arms of a diving Ederson.
Yet it was only a brief stemming of the tide as Rodri soon made it 3-1 with a great goal.
There were groans as the influential De Bruyne landed awkwardly attempting a through-ball but play continued with the Belgian on the ground.
Jesus won the ball on the right and clipped back inside for Rodri, who chested down and then thumped a half-volley into the top corner. With De Bruyne back on his feet before the game resumed, City looked in fine shape.
Jesus was the star of the show (Martin Rickett/PA)
Raheem Sterling should have added another when he blazed over moments later but Jesus made no mistake to complete his treble from the penalty spot after being felled by Foster in the opening moments of the second half.
Jesus then claimed his fourth after 53 minutes by sweeping a low shot past Foster after playing a one-two with De Bruyne.
Foster was in action again when he needed to scramble back to prevent the ball rebounding into the net off Christian Kabasele.
With the job impressively done by City, the final half-hour was played at a much slower tempo with thoughts on bigger tests to come.”