Raheem Sterling conceded Manchester City got lucky with his controversial first goal in the 3-1 Premier League win over Watford.

Sterling went on to complete a quickfire hat-trick to take the game away from Watford and stretch City's advantage over Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table to four points.

But the England winger's opener provided a major talking point after he was initially flagged offside, only for the officials to award the goal on account of Watford defender Daryl Janmaat playing the ball into Sterling's shin before it ricocheted into the net.

"The first half was very difficult. It was hard to break them down," he told BT Sport .

"In the second half thing opened up a bit. We had some luck with the first one and then we had a few more chances that we took really well.

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"In the first half they were really compact. We knew we only had 45 minutes left and we knew we had to go for it and be more aggressive. That's what we did."

Asked specifically for his views on the opening goal, Sterling added: "I don't know exactly what it was, but I was praying and hoping that they'd give it to us.

"We got that slight fortune and we deserved [the win]."

Sterling moved on to 15 Premier League goals this season, the fruits of hard work on the training ground.

"Every year I want to improve. This year's no different. I'm not just trying to score goals but want to help the team as well," the 24-year-old said, before refusing to be drawn on the balance of power between his old club and current one in the title race, with Liverpool hosting Burnley on Sunday.

"To be honest we just take it a game at a time. We know we've got strong contenders. We've done our part and we recover and go again.

"Today was really difficult and it will be a difficult run in."

Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster posted on Twitter to mock the decision to award Sterling's goal, while his boss Javi Gracia was in tongue-biting mode in his own post-match interview.

"I think we played very good in the first half – defensively perfect, collectively doing a very good performance," said the Spaniard. 

"I think everybody has seen what happened. I never criticise the referees and I'm not going to do it today. [Sterling's] position and influence, I think is clear."