A magnificent performance from Manchester City and Erling Haaland saw the Norwegian star striker score a remarkable five goals as the Premier League side hit seven past RB Leipzig and breezed into the quarter-finals of the 2022-23 Champions League. The first leg had finished 1-1 in Germany but City absolutely blew their opponents away in the second leg.
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.
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.