Guardiola runs out of adjectives for Man City striker Haaland

The 23-year-old became the fastest to score 40 Champions League goals

By Reuters

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Manchester City's Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (centre) attempts a shot at goal during the match against RG Leipzig. — AFP
Manchester City's Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (centre) attempts a shot at goal during the match against RG Leipzig. — AFP

Published: Wed 29 Nov 2023, 5:41 PM

Yet another goals record on Erling Haaland's bulging CV had Pep Guardiola sounding on Tuesday - tongue-in-cheek - like he was growing tired of answering questions about his prolific scorer.

The 23-year-old became the fastest to score 40 Champions League goals with his strike in the 54th minute that sparked Manchester City's 3-2 comeback victory over RB Leipzig that clinched them top spot in Group G with a round of group games remaining.

Three days earlier, Haaland had become the fastest to net 50 Premier League goals in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool.

"Again? I have to tell you again?" Guardiola laughed, when asked for comment. "A thousand million times, I'm really impressed. They won today. Another record. Congratulations. He's a fantastic player. I tell you many times, we're really, really pleased.

"We love him, not just for the goals he scores, but for many many other things."

It took Haaland just 35 matches to reach 40 goals, smashing Ruud van Nistelrooy's mark of 45 games.

But more importantly to Guardiola, it kick-started City's comeback after a woefully sluggish first half left them trailing by two goals for the first time in a Champions League game since 2018.

Guardiola's side narrowly avoided their first defeat in European competition at the Etihad since a group stage loss to Olympique Lyonnais in 2018.

Three days after their 1-1 top-of-the-table Premier League draw with Liverpool, City looked like zombies through the first half, although they had a flurry of chances before the break, their best being Dias's header over the bar.

Haaland and Phil Foden also netted in the second period after one of City's most underwhelming recent first-half performances.

Alvarez then scored the winner in the 87th minute for the European champions.

"First half was the worst I've seen us," midfielder Foden told TNT. "Courage and motivation changed it around. This team has great mentality and its so nice to see."

It was Guardiola's second comeback from a two-goal deficit in his Champions League managerial career after his Bayern Munich side rallied to beat Juventus in the 2016 quarter-finals.

City finish the group stage at Red Star Belgrade on Dec. 13.

Young Boys, who are third on four points, secured a place in the Europa league knockout round playoffs with a 2-0 home win over Red Star. The Belgrade side are bottom with one point.

Guardiola said he hoped his players would learn from the roller-coaster game.

"To win in that game not comfortably, to realise, to put in front of the mirror and say 'We have to do better,'" he said.

"But February (the round of 16) we'll be there top of the group, I don't know who we're going to face but the second leg will be (at home), and we showed again that we are able to make a comeback."

City took a different route to Etihad Stadium on Tuesday at Guardiola's request. The manager wanted his team to see the trinity statue of Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee that was unveiled earlier in the day.

"I encouraged the club to drop us, the bus, there and we can walk," Guardiola said. "So another gesture for the three important (players)... really really nice."


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