MANCHESTER (AFP) – Erling Haaland’s stunning acrobatic finish to beat his old club Borussia Dortmund 2-1 sparked comparisons from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola with his mentor Johan Cruyff.
The Norwegian had been kept remarkably quiet, but only needed the slightest glimpse of goal to extend his scoring streak to six games as his telescopic left leg prodded home the winner six minutes from time.
Haaland has now scored 13 goals in nine games for City since they met his bargain EUR60 million (USD60 million) buyout clause from the German giants.
“Everyone knows how important a person Johan Cruyff was in my life. As a person, educator, mentor, everything,” said Guardiola. “He scored in Camp Nou an incredible goal against Atletico Madrid (in 1973) that was quite similar. The moment he (Haaland) scored, I thought of Cruyff.”
Haaland’s incredible flexibility despite his giant frame also drew comparisons from Guardiola to another former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic endured one unhappy season under Guardiola at the Camp Nou, but has used an upbringing in martial arts to devastating effect during his long and storied career.
“I remember my dear friend Ibrahimovic had this ability to put his leg on the roof,” added Guardiola.
“Erling is quite similar. He’s elastic, flexible and after has the ability to put it in the net. He’s so big, but has this natural flexibility.”
Jude Bellingham had given Dortmund the lead 11 minutes into the second half.
But a triple substitution awoke City from their slumber and two goals in four minutes turned the game around.
John Stones’ piledriver from outside the box levelled with the aid of some poor goalkeeping from Alexander Meyer.
Haaland then took centre stage by somehow stretching to meet Joao Cancelo’s cross and beat Meyer at his near post.
“In the end we showed what we are. This is how we have to play. I’m proud of the last 20, 25 minutes,” said Haaland.
“Two wonderful goals today – mine was a bit better, honestly! It was a nice cross from Cancelo and in the end a really important win.”
Victory sees City open up a three-point lead at the top of Group G, with Dortmund still in second after FC Copenhagen and Sevilla played out a 0-0 draw in the Danish capital.
Bellingham admitted on the eve of the game he had no idea how Haaland can be stopped.
But the Germans did a good job of suffocating the service to their former star striker as the first 45 minutes passed with barely any goalmouth action to note.
“I think we were brilliant for the majority of the game,” said Bellingham. “We gave them little to work with.
“Great teams, you give them a yard and they can deliver like that, they can hurt you and that’s what they did tonight.”
Bellingham has been strongly linked with a move back to the Premier League with City, Manchester United and Liverpool reportedly interested.
The England international was quick to shut down speculation over his future on Tuesday and may have added a few more millions to his price tag as he timed his run perfectly to head in Reus’ cross.
Guardiola responded immediately with a triple substitution as Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez were called upon to add more guile in the final third.
When City’s equaliser did arrive, it came from an unlikely source as Stones blasted home his first Champions League goal since 2017 from outside the box.
Haaland was not to be denied the headlines, though, as Cancelo’s inventive cross with the outside of his right foot was pounced on by City’s giant number nine who raised his foot to head height to flick the ball home.