Pep Guardiola had a simple request at the start of his post-game press conference. “Talk about John Stones please,” he pleaded, referring to the scorer of Manchester City’s spectacular first goal as opposed to the scorer of their remarkable second goal.
If we seem to be lacking new things to say about Erling Haaland, then at least he’s finding new ways to demonstrate his generation abilities.
The thirteenth goal of City’s career, which has only nine games, was the best so far, not only because of the circumstances in which he appeared – late, against his former club to secure a victory that the performance barely deserved – but because of the way.
Joao Cancelo’s deep looking cross – played with the outside of the shoe – looked like it was too deep and was even looking for a Haaland to connect with until the Norwegian twisted his body like a kung fu kick, like this, raise his long left leg overhead but still manipulate the finish next to the helpless goalkeeper.
Haaland hangs in the air as if the rest of his teammates are holding him up with all his weight and weight, or as if they’ve pushed him into position like a kind of medieval siege machine. It gets all the more impressive when you remember getting up there alone.
Guardiola only saw a replay of the goal during the post-match flash interview round. When he saw it up close, he drew a comparison to a similar one won by his idol, mentor and inspiration Johan Cruyff for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid in 1973.
Known as “El Gol Imposible”, it is one of the most iconic in Barcelona’s history, so iconic that in July, as part of Joan Laporty’s rush to cover this summer’s extravagant expenses, he was honored to be the first piece of the club’s 122-year history to be sold at auction as a non-convertible token.
Guardiola also ditched another name. “I remember my dear friend [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic had this ability to put his foot on the roof. Erling is quite similar in that, ”he said. “I think that’s his nature. It is flexible, it is flexible, and after that it has the ability to make contact and place the ball in the net. I think his mum and dad give him that flexibility. “
While the resemblance to Ibrahimovic is clear, Cruyff is not the most natural of Haaland’s comparisons.
A football ideologist whose philosophy has influenced the leading tactic of this generation, it’s hard to imagine a City forward doing the same when his football career finally ends in the mid-1930s, when the rest of European football gets a much needed respite.
It is not that Haaland would not be fit for a successful coaching career. It’s just that at the moment it’s hard to imagine him doing anything other than scoring goals.
Even if it isn’t. During the 84-minute wait for his name to be entered on the score sheet for the sixth consecutive game, Haaland did not look like a goalscorer. One shot was fired from a sharp angle into the side net, but otherwise no blatant misses, no dangerous runs backwards, or even a shot on target. Still, a certain sense of inevitability persisted and was caught by the crowd.
One of his former teammates felt it too. “Yes, I knew that [would be him]to be honest, admitted Borussia Dortmund’s goal scorer Jude Bellingham. “Few people know how to stop him. We did a really good job up to maybe 88 minutes tonight, then he did what he does, unfortunately for us.
Bellingham was arguably the best player on the field at the Etihad, not only the instigator of all of Dortmund’s most dangerous counterattacks, but also a reassuring, controlling midfield presence on the night when the Bundesliga team deserved more than they received.
He was caught chatting with Haaland on the camera after the final whistle. Mouth readers will have a hard time deciphering most of what has been said, but they should have no problem figuring out Bellingham’s last words as they interrupt the conversation: annoyed “damn it,” through a knowing smile.
Perhaps just six weeks after Haaland’s spell in Manchester, mid-September of his first season, that’s all I have to say.