Manchester City returned to winning ways by easing to a 3-1 victory over Watford at the Etihad Stadium.
After seeing their 18-match run ended by a goalless draw with Crystal Palace, City needed only 38 seconds to find the net through Raheem Sterling.
A Christian Kabasele own goal soon made it two and Sergio Aguero’s third made sure of the points before Watford grabbed a consolation through Andre Gray.
Tweet of the match
Star man – Kevin De Bruyne
Probably the best news of the night for City was that De Bruyne was fit to start after Jason Puncheon’s horror tackle.
And the Belgian was at the heart of nearly all City’s best moments. He would have had a goal, too, but for a fine save from Heurelho Gomes, who tipped his first-half free-kick onto the bar.
Stat of the match
When Kabasele turned in De Bruyne’s cross he became only the seventh player in Premier League history to suffer the misfortune of scoring an own goal in the 13th minute of a game.
Moment of the match
After the disappointment of seeing their winning run come to an end on Sunday, an early goal was just what City wanted, and it could scarcely have come any earlier or been any more simple.
Just 38 seconds after kick-off, Leroy Sane sprinted away down the left and crossed for Sterling to tap into an empty net.
Ederson 7 (out of 10)
Kyle Walker 7
Nicolas Otamendi 6
John Stones 7
Fabian Delph 6
David Silva 7
Kevin De Bruyne 9
Raheem Sterling 7
Leroy Sane 7
Sergio Aguero 7
Danilo (for Stones, 67) 5
Yaya Toure (for Fernandinho, 71) 5
Bernardo Silva (for De Bruyne, 79) 5
Heurelho Gomes 6
Daryl Janmaat 6
Molla Wague 5
Christian Kabasele 6
Marvin Zeegelaar 5
Abdoulaye Doucoure 5
Ben Watson 5
Andre Carrillo 5
Etienne Capoue 5
Andre Gray 6
Tom Cleverley (for Capoue, 61) 6
Roberto Pereyra (for Watson, 61) 6
Jerome Sinclair (for Richarlison, 82) 5
Kevin De Bruyne made a dramatic return to action as Manchester City eased back to winning ways with a convincing 3-1 victory over Watford.
The Belgian did not score but was the main architect as the Premier League leaders overcame Sunday’s rare blip at Crystal Palace with strikes from Raheem Sterling – after less than a minute – Sergio Aguero and a Christian Kabasele own goal.
De Bruyne had been highly doubtful for the clash at the Etihad Stadium after being carried off in the goalless draw at Selhurst Park – which ended City’s record-breaking run of 18 successive wins – but he played as if he had not been hurt at all.
Watford were outplayed by City for a second time this season, following a 6-0 hammering in September, but did manage a late consolation from Andre Gray on a cold and wet night.
The result did not seem in doubt from the moment Sterling prodded home the opener after just 38 seconds.
It was as if City had been affronted by the Palace result and were determined to take it out on the Hornets yet again.
Moments later John Stones, back in the side after 12 games out injured, should have doubled the lead but he lofted a straightforward chance over.
City’s seemingly inevitable second goal came after 13 minutes, this time De Bruyne delivering from the right and the unfortunate Kabasele sliding in to flick the ball beyond Heurelho Gomes.
De Bruyne went close to netting the third himself as Gomes tipped his free-kick onto the bar.
Further chances came as De Bruyne twice picked out Aguero but the Argentinian was denied by Gomes while David Silva – returning after missing four of the last five games – blazed over.
Watford, to their credit, did carve out some good openings. The best of them fell to Gray after he was played through by Etienne Capoue, but Ederson diverted his low shot wide.
City came out after the break looking for more goals, with Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi heading wide.
It came as no surprise when City did make it 3-0, De Bruyne again causing trouble with a wicked ball from the right. Gomes could not keep hold and gifted a simple chance for Aguero to poke in.
De Bruyne’s efforts deserved a goal and he again went close to getting one with a low drive that flashed by the outside of the post. It proved his final act, however, as he was substituted moments later.
Watford were already doomed to their seventh defeat in nine games but at least had the final say when Andre Carillo crossed from the right and Gray turned in.
They also wanted a late penalty when Roberto Pereyra went down under an Otamendi challenge but nothing was given
Rivalry will be renewed at the Emirates Stadium when Arsenal welcome Chelsea in the London derby on Wednesday.
Ahead of the game, we take a look back at Arsene Wenger’s record against Chelsea managers during his time as Gunners boss.
ANTONIO CONTE (P5, W3, D1, L1)
The Italian arrived as Chelsea boss after crashing out on penalties to Germany at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2016.
With a star-studded squad at his disposal at Stamford Bridge, Conte was given a rude awakening with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Arsenal early in his tenure – but would go on to win the league in his first season in west London.
Perhaps Wenger’s biggest scalp over Conte was last season’s FA Cup win when Aaron Ramsey netted 11 minutes from time to deliver a 17th trophy for the Gunners under the Frenchman’s tutelage.
RAFAEL BENITEZ (P1, W0, D0, L1)
Benitez was never going to be a fan favourite in west London, despite winning a Europa League title and finishing third in the league during his six month spell as interim manager.
Friends off the pitch, Benitez and Wenger have both backed each other in their darkest managerial hours – with the Spaniard holding a better record against the Gunners after a 2-1 win in January 2013, courtesy of goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard.
ROBERTO DI MATTEO (P2, W0, D1, L1)
Another boss who only lasted six months, but still goes down as one of the most popular managers after leading the club to an impressive Champions League title in 2012.
He also holds a formidable record against Wenger – with a 0-0 draw at Emirates extending the Blues unbeaten run to nine games late in the 2011/12 season, while a 2-1 win in September strengthened their position at the top of the table.
ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS (P1, W1, D0, L0)
Wenger and Villas-Boas may have faced each other just once during the Portuguese time at Chelsea, but it was a scintillating eight goal thriller in October 2011 that will be most remembered.
Robin van Persie proved to be the hero as he netted a hat-trick to inspire the Gunners to a sensational 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge.
Wenger was critical of owner Roman Abramovich when Villas-Boas was sacked in March 2012 after just nine months at the helm, saying he “felt sorry for Villas-Boas because I like him as a manager and as a man”.
CARLO ANCELOTTI (P4, W1, D0, L3)
Wenger struggled against Ancelotti’s Chelsea, winning just one of their four meetings.
The sole triumph – after three one-sided defeats – came in December 2010, and put a halt to a barren run of five matches without a win in all competitions against their London rivals.
Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott recorded the goals as the Gunners cruised to a 3-1 victory.
GUUS HIDDINK (P3, W0, D0, L3)
The Dutchman is the only Chelsea manager to hold a successful 100% record against Wenger – with three resounding wins during his two short stints at the club.
In his first spell, the Blues stormed to a 2-1 win to reach the FA Cup final in April 2009, and followed it up with a commanding 4-1 victory to finish third in the league four weeks later.
Wenger’s last game against Hiddink in January 2016 will be remembered for Per Mertesacker’s controversial sending off after 18 minutes and Diego Costa’s crucial winning goal five minutes later.
LUIZ FELIPE SCOLARI (P1, W1, D0, L0)
Wenger contested just one game against Luiz Felipe Scolari, with van Persie striking twice in three minutes to stun the Premier League leaders in a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in November 2008.
The Brazilian was subsequently sacked after seven months in charge as the Blues failed to sustain a serious challenge for the league title.
When Scolari was dismissed in February 2009, Wenger called the decision a “massive surprise”.
AVRAM GRANT (P2, W1, D0, L1)
Like many of the Blues’ bosses, Grant’s tenure at the club was short lived, but the 62-year-old still guided the club to a Champions League final in 2008 against Manchester United.
On the domestic front Chelsea looked solid – finishing second behind the Red Devils in the same season.
Despite all their class, Wenger’s side could only settle for third, but managed to beat Grant’s Chelsea in their first meeting of the season courtesy of a William Gallas header.
In the return fixture in April 2009, Didier Drogba bagged a brace to inspire the Blues to a 2-1 victory.
JOSE MOURINHO (P15, W1, D6, L8)
A rivalry that stretches back 12 years, the feud between Mourinho and Wenger is more personal than competitive.
The former Chelsea manager labeled the Frenchman a “voyeur” back in 2005 and a “specialist failure” in 2014 – comments considered steps too far by both sets of fans.
But aside from the off-field drama, Mourinho’s record against Wenger is flawless – with eight wins and six draws from their 14 meetings.
The fixture Wenger will want to forget quickest is a comprehensive 6-0 defeat on his 1000th game in charge in March 2014 at Stamford Bridge.
CLAUDIO RANIERI (P14, W8, D5, L1)
In his 14 matches against Ranieri’s Chelsea, Wenger lost just once – a 3-2 defeat in the Champions League quarter-final of 2004.
Wayne Bridge’s goal three minutes from time denied the Gunners their dream of European glory.
The Frenchman’s most prominent win over his Italian friend was in the FA Cup final of 2002 when the Gunners sealed a second double in five years.
GIANLUCA VIALLI (P7, W3, D2, L2)
The Frenchman has a mixed record against Vialli, who stepped in to the Chelsea role for Ruud Gullit aged just 33.
Arsenal may have won the league in 1999, but they suffered a dismal 5-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup earlier that campaign.
The following season, the Gunners did the double over their London neighbours – a 1-0 home win and a 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge.
But it was the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in September that led to Vialli’s sacking after just five matches into the Premier League 2000/2001 season.
RUUD GULLIT (P4, W4, D0, L0)
Gullit became the first Dutch boss in the Premier League when appointed as player-manager in 1996.
Wenger held the upper hand over the former midfielder – with four facile victories – the most comprehensive of which was a 3-0 league win at Stamford Bridge in April 1997 where Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp scored.
After a promising start in 1996, he was sacked the following season due to a disagreement with the board – with his side second in the league and still at the quarter-final stage of two cup competitions.