Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Raheem Sterling stars in FA Cup final as Manchester City hammer Watford to complete historic treble

Goals from David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, substitute Kevin de Bruyne and Sterling see Manchester City complete a clean sweep of English trophies

History. In the 138th FA Cup final, in the 58th season since English football introduced a third major competition, its first internal treble was secured. Manchester City had won the League Cup in February. In the space of eight May days, they have added the Premier League and the FA Cup.

A campaign of unparalleled, unprecedented domestic dominance ended in undeniable style and with further glory. City equalled the biggest FA Cup final win, emulating Bury’s 6-0 victory in 1903, and Raheem Sterling would have joined Stan Mortensen among the select band of hat-trick scorers on this stage until one of his goals was credited to Gabriel Jesus. David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Jesus also capped an achievement even Pep Guardiola himself may struggle to repeat.

In the process, City took their tally to 169 goals for the season, 139 in domestic competitions. They have allied a possession-based game with prolific scoring. It has proved a formidable formula and City ended with a statement. This was the eighth time they scored at least six times this season.

The trophy had been brought out by Luther Blissett, Watford’s record scorer, and Tony Book, captain of City’s 1969 FA Cup-winning side. Only Silva and Vincent Kompany remained from City’s 2011 victors and the Spaniard, arguably City’s greatest player, was a fitting man to break the deadlock.

Latching on to Sterling’s header, and played onside by Craig Cathcart, Silva angled a drive past Heurelho Gomes with the aid of a touch off Kiko Femenia. It was a belated first goal of 2019 for Silva, who had failed to score in his previous 27 appearances. But, having found the net in last season’s League Cup final, he found Wembley to his liking again as he ended his longest City goal drought.

One Silva has been has been a constant in City’s modern-day golden age, another ubiquitous this season. It was entirely typical that Bernardo Silva should have a pivotal part in the second. He delivered a delightful, curling ball that caught goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in no-man’s land. Jesus touched it past him and Sterling lashed the ball into the net; the whole of the ball had not crossed the line - although Jesus was later given credit for the goal.

Jesus also scored City’s fourth. For his fellow Brazilian, however, there was only disappointment. Gomes may retire in the summer and an excellent servant to Watford was cruelly found wanting. A later save from Jesus was less redemptive than damage limitation but if the striker, who had a goal ruled out for offside, seemed on a quest to score himself, his essential unselfishness is a reason why Guardiola values him so highly.

The 22-year-old illustrated it again when, released by Sterling, he instead picked out the better positioned De Bruyne, who fooled a grounded Gomes before slotting the ball into the empty net. The Belgian had begun on a star-studded bench with Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane. He had only been on the pitch for six minutes and his presence was a reminder that City have had constructed this remarkable campaign even when a player of his calibre has often been absent.

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His quality was apparent again in City’s fourth, De Bruyne releasing Jesus as the Watford’s defence were opened up too easily. He slotted his shot past Gomes, taking his tally to 20 goals for the season. If there was some debate if Sterling got City’s second goal, there was none about the fifth, finished emphatically from the brilliant Bernardo Silva’s cross. He added the sixth at the second attempt, finishing after Gomes had touched his initial shot on to the post.

The final whistle could scarcely come soon enough for Watford, and yet they could reflect on an opening quarter when they twice threatened. Their semi-final hero Gerard Deulofeu almost conjured another magical Wembley moment when, on a counter-attack, he released Roberto Pereyra. The Argentine only had Ederson to beat but the goalkeeper produced a terrific save.

Then Abdoulaye Doucoure was denied a penalty when his shot struck Kompany’s arm, with VAR upholding referee Kevin Friend’s initial verdict. The midfielder’s sense of injustice was compounded when his protests brought him a booking. Watford’s second FA Cup came 35 years after their first. Once again, they could lament a decision but this time, the sense was that City would have just been too good anyway

Updated: May 19, 2019 08:17 AM

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