Just when you thought you had a grasp on things, Erling Haaland upped the ludicrousness yet again, scoring five times in 57 minutes as Manchester City devastated RB Leipzig and powered into Champions League quarter-finals. If they continue in this vein, it will take something very significant to stop them lifting the trophy in June.
City flew at Leipzig from the off and ought to have gone in front sooner than the 23 minutes it took. But it was then that Ruben Dias made first contact at a corner, the ball brushed the arm of Benjamin Henrichs, nearby and facing the other way … and after consulting VAR, a penalty was awarded. Haaland swept it home, added another 19 seconds after the restart, and made it three in first-half injury-time when Konrad Laimer could only clear into his knee.
City might have declared at half-time, but Haaland is not the declaring sort. After Ilkay Gundogan finished a terrific move, he scored twice more before being subbed to spare Leipzig further punishment. Then in added time Kevin De Bruyne added one more. 7-0 on the night, 8-1 on aggregate, was fair reflection of the chasm between the teams; between City and most teams, when they play like this.
It’s not possible for City to play as well as they did tonight in every game, but it is possible for them to play with similar intensity and purpose. For much of this season, they have moved the ball too slowly, seeking to strangle opponents to death, and it has cost them – if they are to win a third consecutive league title, they will have to do it from behind.
Against Leipzig, though, City looked to pass the ball forward, early and quickly, which made all the difference. They were able to draw their opponents into places they did not want to be, creating space in behind and all over the pitch; they were irresistible.
There will, though, be sterner challenges, and against better sides, they won’t be as dominant. But it remains the case, as it has been for some years now, that their best is the best, and if they can find it or something close to it in the remainder of this competition, they’ve every chance of winning it.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Erling Haaland (Man City): It feels harsh to ignore De Bruyne, but Haaland scored five – ! – goals, including the first three, and broke City’s all-time scoring record for a season, in March. An absolute joke of a footballer.
Man City: Ederson 6, Stones 7, Akanji 7, Dias 7, Ake 7, Rodri 7, Gundogan 8, De Bruyne 9, Bernardo 7, Haaland 10, Grealish 7. Subs: Foden 7, Mahrez 8, Alvarez 6, Gomez 6, Phillips 6.
RB Leipzig: Blaswich 6, Henrichs 6, Orban 5, Gvardiol 5, Raum 6, Kampl 4, Laimer 5, Haidara 5, Szboszlai 5, Forsberg 4, Werner 4. Subs: Simakan 6, Silva 6, Poulsen 6, Klostermann 6, Olmo 6.
21’ – PENALTY TO CITY! I don’t know, that looked accidental to me, but the laws are vague on the point, and Haaland has a chance to put his team in front!
23’ – GOAL! Man City (2) 1-0 (1) Leipzig (Haaland pen) Haaland sweeps low and hard into bottom right, and though Blaswich goes the right way, he’s never getting that! Thirty-five goals in 36 games this season, 29 in 25 Champions League games!
24’ – GOAL! Man City (3) 2-0 (1) Leipzig (Haaland) Game over! Haaland presses the keeper who, probably fouled, rams the ball up the park. But Akanji volleys it straight back down the other end, De Bruyne welts a shot against the bar from 20 yards, and following in, of course, is Haaland, who leaps to head down and in. It took 19 seconds from kick-off for City to score again.
45+2’ – GOAL! Man City (4) 3-0 (1) Leipzig (Haaland) Ahahahahahaha! Five hat-tricks for the season, and what a ridiculous supposed human he is! Dias wins the header, it hits the bar, whizzes across the line, and Haidara, though he gets to the ball first, can do nothing but dig it out into Haaland’s shin. If it wasn’t over already – it was – it is so over now.
49’ – LOVELY GOAL! Man City (5) 4-0 (1) Leipzig (Gundogan) Guardiola directs his team to find Ederson, he drops one into Bernardo loitering wide right, and the ball goes around the corner to De Bruyne. He feeds infield to Haaland, around it goes around the corner again to Gundogan, he exchanges passes with Bernardo, floats into the box, and lashes a finish into the far corner. This could get very messy.
53’ – GOAL! Man City (6) 5-0 (1) Leipzig) (Haaland) Thirty-nine goals, and Haaland breaks City’s season goalscoring record, in March! The corner is a goodun, picking out Big Bernardo at the back stick; he nods back across, Haaland leaps for it like a cyborg on a catapult, and though Blaswich saves, then again from Akanji’s poke, Haaland is right where he needs to be, and who knows where this is going.
57’ – GOAL! Man City (7) 6-0 (1) Leipzig (Haaland) Mahrez has a header shoved behind, the corner eludes both Akanji and Henrichs … so befuddled and broken, Blaswich dives to shove … straight to Haaland, who plants into the corner, and this is almost cruel!
90+2’ – WHAT A GOAL! Man City (8) 7-0 (1) Leipzig (De Bruyne) Mahrez, who’s been good since coming on, darts down the right, slides across to De Bruyne on the edge of the box … and Blaswich knows what’s coming, a curler to the top corner, but can he stop it can he hell as like, and that is the goal De Bruye deserved and a hiding of gargantuan proportions.
Erling Haaland is the third player to score five goals in a Champions League game – the first was Luiz Adriano in October 2014 for Shakhtar Donetsk v BATE Borisov) and the second was Lionel Messi in March 2012 for Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen.
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