RB Leipzig, the third best team in Germany, arrived here with confidence and hope. They left having been taken apart and humiliated by arguably Europe’s best football team and almost certainly its most destructive centre forward.
Manchester City are an artful side with a cannon ball playing up front. And when Erling Haaland fires, few are left standing. Here the young Norwegian did so five times for the first time in his career. He now has five City hat-tricks and 39 (yes thirty-nine) goals and it is only mid-March of his first season in England.
Pep Guardiola actually took him off here with about half an hour left to play. He had just scored twice in the space of three minutes having done exactly the same in the first half. Had he been left on the field it feels almost inevitable that he would have scored more. As he walked off, Leipzig’s humbled, shattered players must have been felt like joining in the applause, theirs motivated only by relief.
Haaland didn’t even score the two best goals of the evening. The best team goal was finished by Ilkay Gundogan just after half-time. The best individual strike was Kevin de Bruyne’s superb 20-yard curler in the 92nd minute. Having been advised by his manager before the game to keep things simple, this was an emphatic and interesting response from the Belgian.
But none of that is the point. Haaland didn’t score the night’s best or most memorable goals but he scored five times. Five. In an hour. The 22-year-old has a hunger for goalscoring matched only by his quality when it comes to doing so.
Erling Haaland stunned Red Bull Leipzig with five goals to fire Manchester City into the Champions League quarter-finals
The Norwegian hitman netted twice in 76 seconds for the hosts as Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first half versus Leipzig
It was a disappointing evening for Marco Rose’s side, who were torn apart by the Premier League champions in a 7-0 mauling
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-2-1): Ederson 6; Stones 6 (Gomez 63min, 6) Akanji 6.5, Dias 6, Ake 6; Rodri 7 (Phillips 63, 6), De Bruyne 8, Gundogan 7 (Mahrez 54, 6); Silva 7, Grealish 6.5 (Foden 55, 6); HAALAND 9 (Alvarez 63, 6).
Scorers: Haaland 22 (pen), 24, 45+2, 53, 57, Gundogan 49, De Bruyne 90+2. Booked: De Bruyne, Akanji.
Manager: Pep Guardiola 7.
RB LEIPZIG (4-2-3-1): Blaswich 6; Henrichs 5.5 (Klostermann 80), Orban 5, Gvardiol 5.5, Raum 6; Haidara 5 (Simakan 63, 6), Kampl 6; Laimer 6, Forsberg 6 (Silva 63, 6), Szoboszlai 6.5 (Olmo 72); Werner 5.5 (Poulsen 63, 6).
Booked: Henrichs, Werner.
Manager: Marco Rose 5.
Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia) 5.
At the end here, he ambled round the field wearing a coat to keep warm and with the match ball tucked under his arm. Holding a single thumb up to the crowd, he had the countenance of a middle weight boxer on his way out of the ring after a particularly satisfying sparring session. Haaland is a football heavyweight, though, and if his presence in this team doesn’t turn them in to the European champions this time then once again something will have gone very wrong indeed.
City, of course, are the team that invent new ways not to win the Champions League and it weighs heavily. On their players and especially their manager. Guardiola must know that his team are superbly well-placed once again, though. There are some who say Haaland is not a natural fit for the way City play and, weird as it sounds, there is probably something in that. But he is simply so good at what it is he does do that it doesn’t really matter given that City routinely enjoy so much possession and territory.
Here they were helped by referee Slavko Vincic early on and briefly the opening goal, a penalty, felt like it could become the controversial story of the night. How things can change during the course of a game.
Certainly the decision was desperately soft. De Bruyne’s high and deep corner from the left was headed back across goal by Rodri. At first the attention was caught by the fact that Manuel Akanji and then Haaland had not managed to turn the ball in. But the referee’s whistle signalled a VAR intervention and when he was asked to consult the pitch side monitor the Slovenian official decided that the ball had come off Rodri’s head and brushed against the arm of Benjamin Henrichs on its way back across goal.
Haaland bundled home Ruben Dias’ header off the post shortly before the break to put City 3-0 up at the Etihad at half time
Captain Ilkay Gundogan struck Man City’s fourth with his weaker left foot shortly after half time, putting the hosts 4-0 ahead
Haaland scored twice more in the 53rd and 57th minute before heading off after the hour mark, having netted his 39th of the season
The fact the Leipzig player was actually facing away from the ball and with his arm only marginally extended in order to assist his jump didn’t seem to matter. A very peculiar penalty was awarded, Henrichs was booked and Haaland scored with a low kick taken with his left foot.
Leipzig were not impressed and within a minute or so they were two down. Haaland did exceptionally well to hold up a clearance from deep and then follow up a De Bruyne drive that smacked against the crossbar to head in on the rebound. It was superb centre forward play and by now City were on their way.
Referee Vincic continued to be influential and that’s never a good sign. Just after the half hour, City goalkeeper Ederson advanced from his area and took out a Leipzig player. The Brazilian didn’t get the ball and should have been penalised. Instead the referee gave nothing and booked the former Chelsea player Timo Werner for complaining.
Kevin De Bruyne was on a mission at the Etihad on Tuesday and capped off his superb display with a long-range goal late on
Haaland has now bagged his fifth hat-trick of the season since arriving for £51million from Borussia Dortmund last summer
Pep Guardiola’s side join Chelsea, Inter, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals so far
It was clearly not going to be Leipzig’s night and that quickly became an understatement. Four City goals were to come from corners and that was no coincidence. Leipzig simply could not defend them and so it was that Haaland scored from three – in the 45th, 54th and 57th minutes. They were all poacher’s goals but none of them the less impressive for it. Last season City didn’t have a proper centre forward. Now they have one who has scored almost 40 goals.
Gundogan’s goal, City’s fourth in the 49th minute, was driven in low from the left after a lovely build up down the right. De Bruyne’s, meanwhile, was a piece of art.
The Bundesliga team were running simply to stand still by then. They had been dismantled. Beaten up. Hope had long since given way to a desperate scramble for pride and for dignity.
City can do this to teams and when they do Haaland is usually leader of the pack. Will the best team in Europe actually get their hands on the trophy this time? They really ought to.