LONDON • Pep Guardiola was apologetic after Manchester City were given a helping hand on their way to a 3-1 home victory over Watford, but insisted his side were deserving of the win that ensured they remained top of the Premier League table.
City were labouring to break down their opponents' massed ranks, until Raheem Sterling's controversial 46th-minute opener on Saturday changed everything.
The forward was initially flagged for offside as his effort looped over goalkeeper Ben Foster, but the decision was overturned by referee Paul Tierney following a close discussion with his assistant referee.
While Sterling was in an offside position as he latched onto Sergio Aguero's layoff, it was deemed the ball was kicked to him by Watford defender Daryl Janmaat.
His interference was enough to convince Tierney that the England international, who went on to complete his hat-trick before substitute Gerard Deulofeu scored a consolation goal, should be ruled onside. But Guardiola admitted post-game he was "sorry" the balance of the game hinged on that decision.
He also backed the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the league next season despite complaints over its use in the Champions League last week and felt Sterling could "have done better" despite taking his tally to 18 goals in all competitions this term.
The City manager said: "There should be an easy solution and, next season... with VAR, that will not be a problem - it will be fairer.
"At the beginning of the season, Manchester City voted to install VAR. Some clubs didn't accept it. Hopefully next season, like in other countries in Europe, we can install it. I apologise to Javi (Gracia) and to Watford if the first goal is offside, but we were incredible.
"We made an incredible game, we played well in the first-half and they had only one shot on target - their goal - against us.
"The three goals (by Sterling) were fantastic but... he didn't help us a lot defensively in the first half and he gave the ball away a lot."
His opposite number Gracia was angered by the call, which basically altered the course of the game.
"Today, in my opinion, it is clear," the Watford boss said. "At the moment Aguero touched the ball, Sterling is in an offside position, a clear offside position, maybe (by) two metres. After that, he is in an offside position and he has influence as well because he goes to the ball.
"It is true the defender touches the ball, but he touches it because Sterling is close to him and is going to press him."