A depleted Watford side went down 5-0 to Manchester City on a thoroughly disappointing final day of the 2016/17 season.
In his last game as Head Coach, Walter Mazzarri was forced to field a makeshift back-four and City – third top scorers in the Premier League – raced into a 4-0 half-time lead thanks to Vincent Kompany, a Sergio Aguero double and Fernandinho.
Gabriel Jesus added a fifth after the break on a day of few positives for the Hornets – other than welcome game-time for Academy graduates Brandon Mason, Andrew Eleftheriou and Dion Pereira.
Swansea’s win over West Brom meant Watford slipped to 17th in the final standings, while victory for Pep Guardiola’s men confirmed a third-placed finish and qualification for next season’s Champions League.
With all six central defenders unavailable, Valon Behrami and Jose Holebas forged an unlikely partnership for the Hornets, flanked by full-backs Daryl Janmaat and Mason, who was making his first Premier League start.
Stefano Okaka was recalled following his goal at Chelsea in midweek, with the Italian playing the role of lone frontman.
It didn’t take long for City to take the lead, just under five minutes in fact. An unmarked Kompany headed Kevin De Bruyne’s corner beyond Heurelho Gomes and Watford’s task looked all the more daunting.
M’Baye Niang fired just over from an angle with quarter-of-an-hour played, then moments later some excellent defending from Behrami denied Aguero a certain goal as the Argentine looked set to convert Gabriel Jesus’ pass.
Aguero was successful soon after though, finding the bottom corner after breaking clear of Watford’s back-line to run onto De Bruyne’s precision through ball with 23 minutes gone.
It was one-way traffic at The Vic, and when David Silva set Leroy Sane away down the left the German squared for Aguero, who had simple task of converting City’s third in the 36th minute.
Janmaat was injured during the build-up to the goal, meaning Academy defender Eleftheriou was introduced from the bench for his professional debut.
There was time for one more before the break, Fernandinho battling past Mason and poking right-footed beyond Gomes to make it 4-0 four minutes before half-time.
Okaka came close to pulling one back at the start of the second-half, skipping between two defenders near the touchline before cutting inside and forcing Willy Caballero to tip a swerving shot wide.
Niang then pounced on a Fernandinho slip-up to the left of goal and fired low towards the near post, but Caballero got a crucial touch to divert it wide.
Aguero should have made it five, poking the ball wide from close-range with 57 minutes played, but Jesus made no mistake moments later, lifting it over Gomes and Eleftheriou – who was positioned on the line – to make it 5-0.
Gomes tipped two Aguero efforts over in as many minutes, and the goalkeeper required treatment after taking a heavy blow second time around, but he was okay to continue.
The Hornets’ supporters very nearly had something to cheer in the 72nd minute. Okaka nodded on Mason’s throw and Abdoulaye Doucouré’s close-range effort was cleared off the line by Nicolas Otamendi.
Pereira became the third Academy graduate to enter the field, replacing Niang with a quarter-of-an-hour to go.
The final stages were played out with little incident, but the Golden Boys took to the pitch after full-time for their customary lap of appreciation and were greeted with a warm reception from the Hornets’ faithful.
HORNETS: Gomes (GK); Janmaat (Eleftheriou, 38), Behrami, Holebas, Mason; Amrabat (Deeney, 59), Cleverley, Doucouré, Capoue, Niang (Pereira, 74); Okaka.
Subs not used: Pantilimon (GK), Gilmartin (GK), Zúñiga, Watson.
Yellow card: Doucouré (45+1)
CITY: Caballero (GK); Fernandinho, Kompany (c), Otamendi, Clichy; De Bruyne, Toure (Sagna, 62), Silva, Sané (Navas, 62); Jesus, Agüero (Iheanacho, 70).
Subs not used: Gunn (GK), Sterling, Kolarov, Stones.
Goals: Kompany (5), Aguero (23, 36), Fernandinho (41), Jesus (58)
Referee: Jon Moss
Attendance: 20, 829