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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.

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.

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Cucho Hernandez’s first-half brace helped Watford to a 2-1 victory over Southampton which boosts their hopes of Premier League safety.

The Colombian capitalised on an underhit backpass to round goalkeeper Fraser Forster and open the scoring in the 14th minute.

He then doubled their advantage shortly after the half-hour, volleying Juraj Kucka’s cross into the bottom-right corner for his fifth goal of the season.

It was 2-1 on the stroke of half-time, Che Adams flicking James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick on to Mohamed Elyounoussi to turn in at the back post.

Forster was at full stretch to deny Kucka while Emmanuel Dennis also fired narrowly wide.

Watford’s first win in five takes them up to 18th, level on points with 17th-placed Everton, who have three matches in hand.

Southampton drop to 10th with 35 points.

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Watford’s dwindling Premier League survival hopes suffered another blow as a dreadful opening 21 minutes saw them beaten comfortably at Wolves.

A 4-0 defeat at Molineux leaves Watford with just one win from their last 16 Premier League outings, with Roy Hodgson’s side three points from safety with 10 games remaining.

Everton in 17th have a superior goal difference and three games in hand as an early strike from Raul Jimenez, a Cucho Hernandez own goal and a Daniel Podence effort saw Wolves coasting with less than a quarter of the game gone – and a fine Ruben Neves chip rounded off a commanding display late on.

Three defeats on the bounce for the home side never looked like becoming four as they maintain hopes of securing European qualification at the end of the season.

Hodgson doffed his cap to the trio of strikes scored by Arsenal to down Watford on Sunday – but here he was left shaking his head in disbelief.

While their fate looks all but sealed, a trip to Molineux actually offered the Hornets a chance to drag themselves back into the fight, having taken 12 points on their travels this term compared to a measly seven at home.

Wolves, too, have struggled in front of their own fans, scoring just 10 goals in their 13 home league games until Watford rolled into town.

Jimenez was given all the time he needed to control a pass from strike partner Hwang Hee-chan and convert from just six yards out to open the scoring with 13 minutes on the clock.

Eight minutes later and the game was well beyond Watford, Hernandez tamely diverting a Rayan Ait-Nouri cross into his own goal before goalkeeper Ben Foster fluffed his lines from a clearance and presented the ball to Podence, who made no mistake from 25 yards.

Hodgson reacted by replacing Kiko Femenia with Christian Kabasele and it stemmed the tide from the hosts as Joshua King passed up a decent opportunity to give Watford a glimmer of hope.

Foster, with the full force of the Wolves fans in the South Bank now on his back, once again found Podence with an errant clearance but this time the forward could not lift a shot back over the goalkeeper from 40 yards out.

Almost all of the chances were coming the way of the home side as substitutes Pedro Neto and Fabio Silva came close to extending the lead.

Wolves would strike again in the closing stages, Neves deftly controlling the ball on the edge of the box before lofting an inch-perfect finish over Foster.

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Manchester United’s bid for a top-four Premier League finish suffered a setback as they were held to a 0-0 draw by relegation-threatened Watford at Old Trafford.

United bossed possession but were left ruing missed chances after a frustrating outing that included Cristiano Ronaldo hitting a post and Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba passing up opportunities, plus some good work from Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster and his team-mates.

Ralf Rangnick’s fourth-placed side are now two points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal having played three games more.

Second-bottom Watford, who memorably beat United 4-1 in the reverse fixture in November that proved to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s last match in charge of the Red Devils, are three points from safety.

They have picked up five points from six games following Roy Hodgson’s appointment as successor to Claudio Ranieri in January, including their first win since that 4-1 game.

Just prior to kick-off, the teams gathered together to hold up a sign displaying the word ‘Peace’, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while a Ukraine flag could be seen in the crowd.

After the contest got under way, Ronaldo was inches away from giving United an early lead when he sent a fifth-minute strike against a post.

United kept up the pressure, with Fernandes having one shot blocked and another well saved by Foster when he might have passed to Ronaldo, who put the ball in the net shortly afterwards, only to see the flag up for offside.

Fernandes then failed to make the most of further opportunities as he diverted Pogba’s delivery wide on the stretch – beating the ground afterwards in frustration – and headed over after Ronaldo had gone around Foster and crossed to his fellow Portuguese.

A breakthrough continued to prove elusive for the hosts, with a scuffed Fred effort and curling Alex Telles free-kick going wide and no penalty being given despite United fans’ protests when Anthony Elanga went down under the attentions of Craig Cathcart just before the interval.

The second half opened with a chance for Watford as Samir headed wide from a corner, and after Pogba made a misjudgement at the other end, connecting with a lofted forward pass by sending the ball across the face of goal, David De Gea was called into action to save an Emmanuel Dennis shot.

United probed again with another penalty claim, this time involving Ronaldo and Hassane Kamara, being dismissed, Elanga firing wide and Ronaldo seeing a shot blocked on the line.

Foster then did well to claim the ball when it headed goalwards off Ronaldo from a Fernandes cross.

Ronaldo looped a header onto the roof of the net and Fernandes was then thwarted by a fine block by Samir.

Rangnick’s substitutions after the break had included bringing on Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, but it made no difference as the game ended goalless, with the closing stages seeing Sancho strike off-target and Fernandes have a long-range shot gathered by Foster before Ismaila Sarr fired an effort wide of De Gea’s goal with virtually the final kick.

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Wilfired Zaha scored twice as Crystal Palace earned a first win in six Premier League matches with a 4-1 victory over Watford at Vicarage Road.

Jean-Philippe Mateta put Palace ahead on 15 minutes when his left-footed shot deflected off Kiko Femenia and flew beyond goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Watford hit back with an equaliser three minutes later through Moussa Sissoko, who met Femenia’s corner to head in his first goal for the club.

Palace restored their lead in spectacular style on 42 minutes, when Connor Gallagher expertly controlled a cross from Tyrick Mitchell before blasting into the roof of the net.

Emmanuel Dennis spurned a great opportunity to equalise before Zaha struck twice in the final five minutes.

First, Zaha controlled a Jordan Ayew cross and fired in, before he went on a solo run and brilliantly found the bottom-right corner of the net.

Palace move up to 11th on 29 points, while Watford drop to 19th with 18 points, four adrift of safety.

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Emmanuel Dennis scored the only goal as Watford beat Aston Villa for their first win under Roy Hodgson to climb to within four points of Premier League safety.

The first opening of note fell to the Hornets striker, who forced a smart low save from Emiliano Martinez on 15 minutes.

In a first half of few chances, Danny Ings came closest to breaking the deadlock, hitting the outside of the post after being put through by Emiliano Buendia.

Moussa Sissoko found the side-netting on 56 minutes before Buendia tested Ben Foster at the other end as both teams pushed for an opening goal.

It was the visitors who struck with 12 minutes remaining. Dennis beat Ashley Young to Ismaila Sarr’s chipped pass to head the ball past Martinez for his ninth goal of the season.

Josh King missed a close-range chance to double Watford’s lead but they held on for a first win since November that lifts them to 18th, on 18 points, four adrift of Newcastle United.

Villa stay 12th with 27 points.

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Kurt Zouma got a first taste of the public outcry towards his cat-kicking shame as West Ham beat Watford 1-0.

Jarrod Bowen’s second-half goal secured a much-needed victory for the top-four hopefuls, but the main talking point was the controversial inclusion of Zouma.

The French defender was named in the starting line-up despite a police enquiry into a video showing him dropping, kicking and slapping his pet cat, and despite the club insisting that it “unreservedly condemns the actions of our player”.

Watford’s visiting fans were quick to make their feelings clear by relentlessly booing Zouma’s every touch and chanting, among other things, ‘RSPCA, RSPCA’.

Former West Ham players Joe Cole and James Collins, at the match working as pundits, felt the club had made a mistake in refusing to drop the 27-year-old.

Cole told BT Sport “I think it’s a miscalculation by the club. He could have sat this one out,” while Collins said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “I think there is a lot of anger and rightly so. I personally don’t think it is the right call.”

Yet despite the widespread revulsion towards the disturbing footage, Hammers manager David Moyes stuck with Zouma “because he is one of our better players”.

Moyes added on BT Sport before the match: “It is certainly ongoing and the club are dealing with it, so that is a separate matter.”

The priority for Moyes was clearly getting West Ham’s Champions League challenge back on track after successive defeats but it felt like he really had not read the room, especially as an online petition calling on Zouma to be “prosecuted for animal cruelty” had attracted 25,000 signatures by the time the match kicked off.

Relegation-threatened Watford arrived at the London Stadium fresh from a first clean sheet of the season in a goalless draw at Burnley in Roy Hodgson’s first game in charge.

They almost took an early lead when Juraj Kucka headed Hassane Kamara’s cross narrowly wide.

West Ham should have gone ahead shortly before half-time when Bowen’s clever reverse pass found Said Benrahma eight yards out. After Benrahma’s initial shot was blocked by Hornets keeper Ben Foster, the Algeria international crashed the rebound against the outside of the post.

The goal came after 68 minutes with Watford standing off Bowen as he drove through the centre.

The England hopeful’s low shot clipped the heel of Hornets defender Samir, sending Foster the wrong way as the ball trickled into the net.

Watford’s best chance to equalise fell to Kucka, who was teed up by Joshua King 15 yards out but blazed his effort over the crossbar.

Bowen almost doubled the advantage with six minutes remaining but Foster tipped his curler onto the post.

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Watford Football Club are set to appoint former Liverpool, Crystal Palace, and England manager Roy Hodgson as the manager of the club until the end of the season. The 74-year-old will be Watford’s 3rd manager of the 2021/2022 season and will replace the recently sacked Claudio Ranieri.

Ranieri had taken charge of The Hornets in October 2021, after owner Gino Pozzo sacked Xisco Munoz due to a poor run of results. A similar run of results led to the removal of Ranieri as well; he was in charge of the Vicarage Road side for just three-and-a-half months.

A Premier League-winning manager, Ranieri was in Watford dugout for just 12 games. During his time in charge, Watford won just two games, drew one, and lost nine. One of those wins came against a poor-performing Everton side, while the other was against a struggling Manchester United team.

Watford had beaten Manchester United 4-1 on the day. That result led to the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the manager of Manchester United. Nine games later, Ranieri is now gone after his team lost 3-0 to relegation foes, Norwich City.

Hodgson will be Watford’s 15th managerial appointment since the Pozzo family took charge of the club in June 2012. Fourteen managers in less than 10 years is a stat Watford fans will not be proud of. This is a stat that speaks volumes of the instability, and poor decision-making that exists behind the scenes at Watford Football Club.

Hodgson had announced his retirement from football management after 45 years of working in the industry and after his four-year spell at Crystal Palace concluded.

He will sign a six-month contract at Vicarage Road, and his only task will be to ensure Watford stays in the Premier League at the end of the campaign. They will be Hodgson’s sixth Premier League club having worked at Blackburn, Fulham, Liverpool, West Brom, and Palace in the past.

Hodgson will be well aware of the task at hand; the expectations from the fans and the board, and is also familiar with his bosses, having briefly worked with the Pozzo family in the past during his time with Udinese in Serie A, back in 2001.

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Hornets close in on Hodgson as Claudio’s successor

Watford are reportedly set to appoint former England boss Roy Hodgson as head coach after sacking Claudio Ranieri.

The relegation-haunted Hornets dropped the axe on Ranieri earlier this evening after the Italian, who was only appointed last October, oversaw 10 defeats in 13 games. 

And former Blackburn, Liverpool, and Crystal Palace boss Hodgson, 74, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace him at Vicarage Road. 

Hodgson has been out of work since leaving Palace at the end of last season and it was widely believed he would not manage again after leaving Selhurst Park. 

But the Croydon-born tactician is now in line to become Watford’s THIRD boss this season, following in the footsteps of Ranieri and Xisco Munoz, who led the Hornets for the first seven Premier League games of the campaign.

Ranieri’s departure means Watford have now sacked five head coaches since Javi Gracia’s exit in September 2019. 

Quique Sanchez Flores, Nigel Pearson, Vladimir Ivic, Munoz and ex-Chelsea and Leicester boss Ranieri have all left the club during that 28-month period, while Hayden Mullins has also had two spells as caretaker boss. 

If appointed, Hodgson will become the Pozzo family’s 15th permanent manager since they completed their takeover of Watford in June 2012.

The 19th-placed Hornets return to league action when they travel to rock-bottom Burnley on February 5. 

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Watford have sacked manager Claudio Ranieri after just 16 weeks in the hot seat, according to reports.

The well-travelled Italian signed a two-year deal at Vicarage Road in October, replacing Xisco Munoz with the side 15th, having taken seven points from their first seven Premier League games.

But Ranieri only managed to double that points tally during his 13 top-flight matches in charge and has now reportedly been sacked after 112 days.

The Hornets languish in 19th place in the Premier League and sit just two points above bottom-placed Burnley, who have two games in hand on the Hertfordshire side.

The relegation rivals will go toe-to-toe in a rearranged encounter at Turf Moor this weekend, with last Friday’s chastening 3-0 home loss to struggling Norwich seemingly the final straw for the Watford hierarchy.