Three days after an ankle injury cast doubt on whether Manchester City’s Erling Haaland would even play against Young Boys on Tuesday, he laid down another impressive performance, scoring twice in City’s 3-0 Champions League win and moving closer to smashing yet another record.
Haaland now has 39 Champions League goals from 34 appearances, and is poised to break the record for fewest appearances to reach 40 goals, which is held by Ruud van Nistelrooy (45 games).
Despite being Europe’s top scorer last season, Haaland was recently beaten by Lionel Messi to the Ballon D’Or award. City manager Pep Guardiola was asked if his striker is putting together the type of season that could win the prestigious trophy next year.
“If he with his mates can win trophies, will be a chance to win it,” Guardiola said. “If we don’t, he won’t win it.”
Holders City clinched a spot in the last 16 with two group games remaining after guaranteeing a top-two finish.
Haaland’s first goal came from a penalty while Guardiola described his second – a left-footed rocket from 20 metres – as “amazing.”
“Normally Erling scores goals, six-yard box, 18-yard box he has this talent, not the first time he has done it,” the Spanish manager said. “Yeah, that was a fantastic goal.”
Guardiola said Haaland was given the green light to play after a training session.
“I didn’t speak with him, we saw in the training session how he moved and how happy he was,” Guardiola said. “He feels good, okay. So he plays, the job was almost done, take a rest for next Sunday.”
Guardiola said there was a sense of accomplishment in clinching a knockout berth with two games remaining, but the aim is to finish top in the group to ensure the second game in the last-16 is at home.
“The job isn’t done, we have to finish first,” Guardiola said. “We have a job to do, the first step to qualify is done. Really impressed, two fantastic goals.”
The manager lamented what could be a long injury layoff for John Stones, who recently returned from a hip injury but was replaced after halftime on Tuesday.
“It’s muscular, will be awhile out,” Guardiola said. “A pity for him, incredible professional. A pity and bad news for us.”
Haaland’s halftime shirt swap with Young Boys skipper raises eyebrows
If Young Boys’ 3-0 loss to Manchester City on Tuesday was not humbling enough, manager Raphael Wicky said he would need to speak with Mohamed Ali Camara after learning his captain had asked City striker Erling Haaland for his coveted shirt — at halftime.
“I didn’t see that, that’s news to me and I’m little bit surprised by that right now,” Wicky told reporters after the game.
“On the other hand, I don’t think it had anything to do with the game or the performance but I’ll probably have a word with him and see what he thought.
“Maybe Erling asked him to swap, I don’t know!”
The Young Boys player was spotted approaching Haaland, who had already scored one of his two goals by then, as they headed to the tunnel and the two swapped shirts.
It is not uncommon for players to trade shirts at fulltime, as many City and Young Boys players did at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, but halftime exchanges are rare and often incur the wrath of fans who feel it out of place in the heat of battle.
Former City player Keith Curle told Sky Sports he would “be raging” as a manager.
City manager Pep Guardiola said the swap did not bother him.
“I don’t know about it,” he said. “We win 3-0. It happened, I don’t know the reason why.”