Raheem Sterling scored the first FA Cup final hat-trick since 1953 as Manchester City rounded off an outstanding season by crushing Watford at Wembley to clinch a historic domestic treble.
Sterling was instrumental as Pep Guardiola’s team became the first English men’s team to achieve the feat of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup in the same season.
They reaffirmed their status as this season’s dominant force as Watford were utterly outclassed, City achieving the biggest FA Cup final win since Bury beat Derby 6-0 in 1903.
Watford’s best chance of over-turning the odds came early on when City keeper Ederson saved at the feel of Roberto Pereyra and they were furious when referee Kevin Friend waved away penalty claims after Vincent Kompany blocked Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot.
The contest was effectively over from the moment David Silva finished from close range after 26 minutes, Sterling doubling the advantage before half-time by turning in Gabriel Jesus’s goalbound shot.
Watford rallied briefly after the break but were always wide open to the counter attack.
They were brutally punished by an imperious City side, as substitute Kevin de Bruyne scored from Gabriel Jesus’s pass just after the hour before the Brazilian raced clear for another goal shortly afterwards.
Sterling wrote his own name into the history books with a treble by scoring twice in the final 10 minutes – turning in Bernardo Silva’s perfect cross before bundling in the final goal of a memorable display from Guardiola’s side.
The England international is the fourth player to score a hat-trick in an FA Cup final – and first since Stan Mortensen for Blackpool 66 years ago.
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It was City’s sixth FA Cup triumph and their first under Guardiola, who has now won six trophies since taking over at Etihad Stadium in 2016.
City’s win means Wolves, who finished seventh in the Premier League table, will play in the two-legged second qualifying round of the Europa League on 25 July and 1 August.
Irresistible Man City make history
City claimed the coveted league and FA Cup double for the first time – the first time it has been achieved since Chelsea did it under Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10.
This comprehensive triumph, however, was about even more than that.
The securing of three trophies underscores the scale of City’s achievement – and emphasises the hunger and desire which has driven them this season, notably to finish ahead of Liverpool in a relentless Premier League title race.
Their ability to move to another level when required was on show here at they resisted Watford’s early promise – and then brushed them aside.
They refused to ease up when Watford were down and out, pressing forward until the final whistle, with substitute John Stones only being denied by the bar in the final seconds as City almost became the first team in win an FA Cup final by seven goals.
The pedal was still pressed to the floor as the goals racked up.
And it was all achieved without leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero, restricted to a place on the bench alongside De Bruyne, Stones and Leroy Sane.
After securing the Premier League title at Brighton last weekend, Guardiola stated that he is addicted to winning. This was a performance of class and quality from a team that looks in shape to satisfy the Catalan’s craving for years to come.
This is a special team led by a special manager.
Watford feel FA Cup final pain
Watford arrived at Wembley hoping to overturn the odds and enjoy a happier day than they experienced in their previous FA Cup final appearance, when they lost 2-0 to Everton in 1984.
In the end, brief defiance ended in a fearful hammering as they were taken apart by this magnificent City side.
Yes, they will look back at Pereyra’s early missed chance and that handball appeal.
But in reality the team that finished a mammoth 48 points behind City in the Premier League saw the chasm opening out in front of them on a day of pain at the national stadium.
Watford’s fans were magnificent, waving their flags in defiance as their team were thrashed, and they will still have memories of that remarkable comeback from two goals down to beat Wolves 3-2 in the semi-final.
On the pitch, however, they will wish to wipe a harrowing 90 minutes from the memory bank as soon as possible.
Man of the match – Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
‘Incredible final, incredible season’ – what the managers said
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola: “It was an incredible final for us and we have finished an incredible year.
“To all the people at the club, a big congratulations, especially the players because they are the reason why we have won these titles.”
On Ederson’s early save from Roberto Pereyra: “In the final, these kind of things make the difference.
“Ederson saved us at a key point at the beginning of the game, because 1-0 would have been really difficult for us.”
Can City get even better? “We have to; always you can improve. There is no sense to stay still.”
Watford boss Javi Gracia: “In this moment, everyone is really sad but we knew before the game we had to play the perfect game.
“We started well and we created the best chance after 10 minutes with Roberto Pereyra but after that they dominated.
“It was very difficult for us to press which is what we were trying to do. They were better. Congratulations to them and we will try again next time.
“Maybe scoring that early chance [would have helped] – you need to take any opportunity – but after that, they are really good, they found the spaces.
“Sometimes you have to lose to win in the future and we will try to do it next time.”
A half century of wins – FA Cup final stats
- Manchester City are the first English top-flight side to register 50 wins in all competitions in a single season.
- Watford have lost their past 11 matches against City in all competitions, conceding 38 goals.
- City are just the fourth team to win both major domestic cup competitions in the same season – after Arsenal in 1992-93, Liverpool in 2000-01 and Chelsea in 2006-07.
- Pep Guardiola’s team are only the third to score six goals in an FA Cup final, after Blackburn against Sheffield Wednesday in 1890 (6-1) and Bury against Derby in 1903 (6-0).
- City have scored 26 goals in the 2018-19 FA Cup – the most by a team in a single season in the competition since Charlton hit 29 and Derby scored 37, both in 1945-46.
- Guardiola is the eighth manager to win the English top flight, EFL Cup and FA Cup, after Bill Nicholson, Don Revie, Joe Mercer, Kenny Dalglish, George Graham, Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho.
- David Silva has become just the second Manchester City player to score in both an FA Cup and EFL Cup final, after Yaya Toure.
- Raheem Sterling has been directly involved in 41 goals in 51 appearances in all competitions this season.
- Sterling is the fourth player to score a hat-trick in an FA Cup final, after William Townley for Blackburn in 1890, Jimmy Logan for Notts County in 1894 and Stan Mortensen for Blackpool in 1953.