Watford paid the price for a poor first-half performance after losing 2-0 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium this evening.

Walter Mazzarri made a surprising team selection with captain Troy Deeney starting on the bench and the Hornets produced a lacklustre showing against a City side which had kept just one clean sheet in 17 games.

Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half and were rewarded with the opener through Pablo Zabaleta’s volley.

Watford had to improve after the break and they did but Odion Ighalo spurned the best chance late on as nervous City clinched the points through a David Silva effort.

The Hornets made four changes from the team which defeated Everton on Saturday. Jerome Sinclair was handed his first start of the season with Deeney left out of the side. Ighalo also came into the attack with Stefano Okaka ruled out due to a hamstring injury.

Roberto Pereyra returned from suspension with Valon Behrami missing out through illness while Daryl Janmaat was preferred to Juan Camilo Zuniga.

Guardiola made some notable changes to the side beaten at Leicester City with John Stones dropping to the bench and Nolito brought into the attack in place of Kelechi Iheanacho.

The hosts created their first opportunity through Raheem Sterling when he set up Kevin De Bruyne but his shot was turned round the post by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

Man City went close shortly afterwards through Aleksandar Kolarov’s shot which was spilled by Gomes but the linesman’s offside flag came to the rescue before a home attacker could reach the rebound.

Sebastian Prodl was the first player shown a yellow card after the defender fouled David Silva.

The Citizens cut open the visitors’ defence through De Bruyne’s pass but Nolito’s effort from a tight angle was diverted out for a corner by Gomes.

City kept the pressure on from the set piece but Ilkay Gundogan’s volley flew harmlessly over the crossbar.

Watford were forced into a change on the half hour mark when Pereyra suffered a knee injury and was replaced by Zuniga.

The Hornets fell behind after 33 minutes when De Bruyne’s cross was volleyed in from close range by Zabaleta.

The lively De Bruyne continued to look a threat and fired in an effort from the edge of the area which was comfortably saved by Gomes.

It was all too easy for the home side and Yaya Toure was the next to take aim but the midfielder’s strike rose over the visitors’ bar.

City were forced into a late change in the first half when the injured Gundogan was replaced by Fernando.

Nolito raced towards goal early on in the second half but Jose Holebas pulled off a superb tackle to deny him.

Watford Observer:

The hosts kept pushing forward and Sterling was unlucky to see his shot clip the crossbar after a dangerous run from the England winger.

Mazzarri made a positive change before the hour mark when he introduced attacker Isaac Success in place of Janmaat.

Half chances were a rarity for the Hornets and Adlene Guedioura failed to test keeper Claudio Bravo with his free-kick sailing over the bar.

Deeney was given the last 20 minutes of the match after replacing the quiet Sinclair in Watford’s final substitution.

Bravo was finally called into action in the 76th minute when the City keeper did well to parry Etienne Capoue’s volley.

The Hornets should have levelled the contest when Nordin Amrabat crossed for Ighalo but the striker blasted wide of the target from close range.

There were plenty of nerves among the home fans but City sealed victory in the 86th minute when Sterling set up Silva and he fired past Gomes.

Manchester City: Bravo; Otamendi, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Clichy; Silva, De Bruyne (Sane, 88), Gundogan (Fernando, 44), Toure, Sterling; Nolito (Navas, 80)

Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Stones, Iheanacho

Watford: Gomes; Holebas, Britos, Prodl, Janmaat (Success, 59); Capoue, Guedioura, Pereyra (Zuniga, 30); Amrabat, Ighalo, Sinclair (Deeney, 71)

Subs not used: Pantilimon, Kaboul, Watson, Kabasele

Referee: Kevin Friend