Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (C) celebrates scoring his first goal with teammates during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Watford at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on March 9, 2019. (Photo: AFP)
Raheem Sterling struck a second half hat-trick as champions Manchester City put pressure on title rivals Liverpool with a 3-1 win over Watford at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The win moved Premier League leaders City four points clear of Liverpool ahead of their home game against Burnley on Sunday -- a match Juergen Klopp's side can ill-afford not to win.
Watford manager Javi Gracia made seven changes to his side and let out key forwards Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu, and the visitors' deep defending frustrated City in the opening half.
Within a minute of the restart, however, Sterling put City ahead with a controversial goal that was initially ruled out for offside before referee Paul Tierney changed his mind after lengthy consultation with his assistant.
There was no argument about Sterling's second as he tapped in a Riyad Mahrez cross from close range.
The England winger completed his hat-trick in the 59th minute -- cutting in from the left, behind Daryl Janmaat, to latch on to a fine David Silva pass, and ghosting across two defenders before drilling home.
Gracia threw on Deeney and Deulofeu in the 66th minute and it took 17 seconds for them to make an impact, Deeney heading down to the Spaniard who slotted home.
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