MANCHESTER: Erling Haaland equaled a Champions League record with a five-goal haul to ease Manchester City into the quarter-finals at RB Leipzig’s expense with a 7-0 win on Tuesday. Haaland also set a new club record for goals in a season of 39 in the process as Pep Guardiola’s men reached the last eight for the sixth consecutive season with an 8-1 aggregate victory.
“My super strength is scoring goals,” said Haaland. “A lot of it is being quick in the mind and trying to put it where the goalkeeper is not.” Abu Dhabi-owned City are yet to go all the way in the Champions League, but they have never had a striker of Haaland’s quality to make the difference in the latter stages before. At just 22 he now has 33 goals in 25 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition. “Firstly, I’m proud to play in this competition, I love it,” added Haaland. “Five goals! To win 7-0 is amazing.”
The snowy weather was more akin to Haaland’s homeland, but City did not freeze under the pressure and kept their Champions League dreams alive. The tie was delicately balanced after a 1-1 draw in eastern Germany three weeks ago, but a Leipzig side depleted by injury never looked like a match for their star-studded opponents. “That was an incredible performance,” said Leipzig coach Marco Rose. “They didn’t allow us to control the game at all, at no stage of the game. The bottom line is disappointing for us but they really deserved it.”
Guardiola had kept Kevin De Bruyne in reserve for City’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace in the Premier League at the weekend and on his return to the starting line-up, the Belgian was back to his best. Ilkay Gundogan should have opened the scoring after just three minutes from De Bruyne’s inviting cross. There was some fortune surrounding City’s opener as VAR spotted a handball against Benjamin Henrichs that led to a penalty that neither the City players nor the crowd even noticed.
Denied record chance
Haaland fired low to Janis Blaswich’s left to maintain his perfect record from the spot for City with his sixth penalty of the season. Two minutes later it was 2-0 as Haaland teed up De Bruyne, who smashed a shot against the bar, and then showed his speed and strength to power home a header from the rebound. Haaland had three before half-time as Ruben Dias rose highest to head Jack Grealish’s corner onto the post and Amadou Haidara’s attempted clearance ricocheted off City’s number nine into the net.
Gundogan’s classy finish into the far corner four minutes into the second half rubbed more salt into Leipzig’s wounds before Haaland started rewriting the record books. Firstly, he hammered home at the second attempt after Blaswich parried his initial header to match Tommy Johnson’s record of 38 goals for City in the 1928-29 season. Haaland set a new mark with still three months of the campaign to go when he snaffled up another rebound after Blaswich saved from Manuel Akanji.
In the process, he moved level with Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano’s record of scoring five goals in a Champions League game. But Guardiola denied his star striker the chance of another record as he replaced him with Julian Alvarez with 25 minutes remaining. “If he achieves all these milestones at 22 his life would be boring,” joked Guardiola on making the change. Instead, it was left to De Bruyne to have the final say as he curled a superb strike into the top corner in stoppage time. – AFP