“They didn’t stop me. I scored.”
After Manchester City’s Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night, which the German side defended particularly well, Erling Haaland’s response was typically harsh.
For more than 80 minutes Dortmund kept their former star quiet. He had just 26 touches in the game, the fewest of any player. But that did not stop him from being the last word.
Despite the rising stature of the young forward, his winner here was particularly impressive. The assist – Joao Cancelo’s elegant cross – was enough in itself.
The finish, Haaland’s acrobatic volley past goalkeeper Alex Meyer, was arguably the best of Man City’s 13 goals in nine games so far.
He received glowing praise from his coach Pep Guardiola, who compared Haaland to former Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff.
In a match against Atletico Madrid in 1973, Cruyff leaped into the air outside the post and deflected a cross into the net from an acute angle with the outside of his right heel at chest height.
Known as the phantom goal, it is one of the Netherlands’ most famous shots, and Guardiola believes Haaland has replicated it perfectly.
“What a goal,” he said. “I remember a long time ago in Barcelona Johan Cruyff did something quite similar against Atletico Madrid. It’s nice that Erling imitates Johan Cruyff.
“Perhaps people who know me know the impact Cruyff has had on my life as a person, a mentor and a manager. Last year when he scored at Camp Nou and Atleti scored, he was quite similar to Haaland and the moment he scored I thought Cruyff , it was pretty similar.”
On a night when City were on their way to a disappointing result, it was another reminder of the number nine’s game-changing qualities.
Haaland has now scored 26 goals in 21 Champions League games, averaging a goal every 62 minutes.
Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand told BT Sport: “So what I love is that a lot of strikers would panic when they don’t get the ball a lot. He’s calm and thinks, I want goals. That’s it. About the end product and winning games for Haaland .
“Only a few players can go into a winning dressing room and fit in, there’s got to be pride and confidence. He’s giving so much.
“He [Guardiola] it does not attempt to compare them [Cruyff and Haaland] as players but they are players whose moments come. Only he would have scored that goal tonight.”
Dion Dublin, the former Aston Villa striker, told BBC Radio 5Live: “Any other player would have tried to hit the volley with his right foot, but Haaland has gone with his left foot. It’s hard to describe. He has to be at least eight feet in the air when he connects with the ball, the ending is amazing.
“It’s straight-footed, obviously, because it’s in the back of the net! It’s left-footed and a lot of times, you’ll do things with your good foot in a heterodox way, which makes it look really difficult, but you’re more comfortable because it’s your good foot.
“Man City were under par but still managed to get over the line. Two very, very good goals. Stones’ goal was 22 yards out, what a goal.
“And then you have Haaland. I don’t know what he’s thinking, finishing on the wrong side of his foot in mid-air. Absolutely brilliant finish.”
This was a difficult defeat for Dortmund, after taking the lead through the outstanding Jude Bellingham and keeping Haaland in check for quite some time.
“It wasn’t one of those games where you can get on the ball and have a lot of possession,” Bellingham said afterward. “We knew that we would spend most of the game without the ball.
“We played brilliantly for 75 minutes but that’s enough for City to dismiss you.
“That’s what great teams can do. You don’t give them a snuff and they score out of nowhere and tilt the game back in their favor.”