Man City ends festive program with 15-point lead in EPL

AP

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  • Manchester City's players celebrate after Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, third left, scores their side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Watford at Etihad stadium, in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

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    Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola points during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Watford at Etihad stadium, in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

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    Tottenham Hotspur's Fernando Llorente, second right, celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against Swansea, during their English Premier League soccer match at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, England, Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018. (Nigel French/PA via AP)

  • Manchester City's players celebrate after Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, third left, scores their side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Watford at Etihad stadium, in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

  • 1

    Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola points during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Watford at Etihad stadium, in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

  • 2

    Tottenham Hotspur's Fernando Llorente, second right, celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against Swansea, during their English Premier League soccer match at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, England, Tuesday Jan. 2, 2018. (Nigel French/PA via AP)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Pep Guardiola was eager to discover how Manchester City would react to seeing its long winning run in the Premier League come to an end.

A goal after 38 seconds the quickest of the season and a convincing 3-1 win over Watford on Tuesday was an emphatic response.

City ended its grueling, four-match festive program with a 15-point lead after 22 games. It could be reduced to 14 points if Chelsea wins at Arsenal on Wednesday, but City is showing no sign of wobbling as it closes in on a first league title under Guardiola.

Sunday's 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, which ended City's record 18-match winning run, tested the character of Guardiola's side. But the visit of out-of-form Watford to Etihad Stadium offered the perfect chance to bounce back.

Raheem Sterling gave City lead inside a minute he has now scored the earliest and latest goals in the league this season before Christian Kabasele's own goal and a close-range finish from Sergio Aguero put City 3-1 up. Andre Gray grabbed an 82nd-minute consolation goal.

"We played really well," Guardiola said. "After dropping two points, we spoke about our reaction because big teams drop points, but not too much."

"I think the team showed a lot of good things today. After two days, it means a lot for us."

Here's what else happened on Tuesday:

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LLORENTE'S RETURN

Fernando Llorente's first start for Tottenham came against his former club, Swansea. Almost inevitably, he scored.

The Spanish striker headed in the opening goal in Spurs' 2-0 win that lifted them to fifth place, four points off fourth-place Liverpool with a game still in hand. Dele Alli added the second in the 89th minute at Liberty Stadium.

Llorente's 15 goals last season were arguably the main reason why Swansea stayed up. He moved to Tottenham in the summer transfer window and has mostly had to settle for appearances as a substitute.

It was a third victory over the festive period for Tottenham, which plays West Ham on Thursday.

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DOUBLE FOR CARROLL

Andy Carroll scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time as West Ham fought back to win 2-1 against West Bromwich Albion, whose winless run stretched to 20 games.

Carroll had already equalized, canceling out West Brom's opener by James McClean, when he slid in to fire home Marko Arnautovic's low cross.

West Ham moved a point above the relegation zone and five points above West Brom. Only three clubs have endured longer runs without a victory in the Premier League than West Brom: Derby (32), Sunderland (26) and Norwich (21).

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PALACE CONTINUES RECOVERY

Without a point or a goal after seven games, Crystal Palace is in sight of mid-table in the Premier League after a 2-1 win at Southampton.

Palace came from behind at St. Mary's Stadium, bouncing back from Shane Long's first goal in 11 months with strikes by James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic.

Palace moved up to 14th place, just three off 10th-place Watford, and is much improved under Roy Hodgson since he came in as manager after four games of the season. Southampton is only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

 

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