Watford head coach Gianfranco Zola believes there was not a “big difference” between his side and Manchester City this afternoon and claims the 3-0 scoreline was “unfair” on the Hornets.

City named an almost full-strength team at the Etihad Stadium and Roberto Mancini’s side were relatively comfortable throughout.

The Sky Blues opened the scoring midway through the first half through a Carlos Tevez free kick and then doubled their lead shortly before the break, when poor defending contributed to Gareth Barry doubling the advantage with a header.

A third goal came in injury time of the second half as substitute Marcos Lopes scored with a rebound after Jonathan Bond had saved the initial effort.

But Zola said: “It is ok because during the game you could not spot a big difference [between the two teams]. Don’t take me the wrong way, they deserved to win but my team played quality football and it was quite entertaining. It was quite dangerous for them as well.”

Watford made six changes to their starting line-up. Zola confirmed Jonathan Hogg, Manuel Almunia and Almen Abdi all missed the game through injury, as did Fitz Hall, and stressed “that was the best team I could put out”.

The Italian stated Tommie Hoban was rested because he was “totally exhausted” after the midweek defeat to Charlton Athletic and needed a rest.

Watford handed Bond just his third start for the club and the 19-year-old didn’t disappoint as he made several decent saves.

Zola said: “Jonathan Bond did very well and I told him not to be disappointed by the three goals he conceded. He did well and it was a mature performance.

“I am pleased because he is another young player who is doing well for us and it is encouraging for all of us. We put a lot of faith in the young players and they are doing well for us.”

Zola believes this defeat, at a sold-out Etihad Stadium against the English champions, will benefit his young players in the long run.

He added: “This was a brilliant game for their education. We came here and I didn’t put too much expectancy on the players because it would be impossible to stop them from creating chances but I wanted us to cause problems whenever the opportunities arose and we did that.

“I told them to learn from these better players if they want to become better and I am sure my players will get a lot from this.”

Moments after Tevez opened the scoring, Fernando Forestieri was put through one-on-one only to see his effort saved by City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.

When asked if things would have been different had Forestieri equalised, Zola replied: “What-ifs do not exist in football. But considering he is such a good player, I was expecting Fernando to do a bit better but I can’t blame him. Normally Fernando is good [in those positions] and the goalkeeper stood up quite well. It is a pity.

“Even if we had scored there, maybe we would have lost the game but there wouldn’t have been the same difference at the end because I think the scoreline was a little unfair to us. I admit they deserved to win but not by that score.”

He continued: “In the second half we had a couple of opportunities on the break where we could have scored through Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra. We had our opportunities to score, like I was expecting, but unfortunately we didn’t finish them as well as we normally do and in the end they scored. I was expecting them to score again because I know how good they are.”

There were 6,000 Watford fans at the Etihad Stadium. Zola said: "They were fantastic. We really tried to give them something to shout about. I hope they enjoyed themselves and I’m looking forward to seeing them again very soon.”

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