Five months from now, Sergio Aguero’s 84th-minute winner for Manchester City against Watford might be looked at as the turning point in the race for the 2015-16 Premier League title.
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It was a move by his manager, Manuel Pellegrini, nine minutes before Aguero’s looping header that was the real difference maker, though. Down 1-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday, Pellegrini made the ultimate attacking substitution: striker Wilfried Bony replaced center back Eliqauim Mangala.
The increased risk of conceding a second goal was plain for all to see, but Pellegrini knew a draw would do Man City no good in their pursuit of league-leading Arsenal, let alone a loss. Seven minutes later, Yaya Toure equalized; nine minutes later, Aguero won it. After the game, Pellegrini discussed the risk of making the change — quotes from the BBC:
“It was important to we take some risks but we continued playing. Watford were just defending their goal. It was a lucky goal, it wasn’t a corner and it was an own goal. We had two clear chances to score before that.
“We were losing 1-0 and had to take a risk. A draw was not good – we needed three points. It was a very close, tough game for both teams. Watford are in a good moment. But I think we deserved to win – more shots, shots on target and possession.”
There’s still a real lethargy about this City side, but the fact remains they’re capable of beating just about anyone in the PL by simply playing well for a just 15 of the 90 minutes. There’s no deeper (and healthier) team in the league this season, but City’s penchant for letting inferior teams hang around, and even take a lead as Watford did on Saturday, has undone this brilliant collection of world-class players time and time again this season.