Erling Haaland’s outrageous finish against his old club completed a dramatic turnaround as Manchester City defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side had looked to be heading for Champions League defeat when Jude Bellingham headed Dortmund in front early in the second half but John Stones leveled it late on from distance before Haaland had the final say with his measured volley from Joao Cancelo’s inviting outside-of -the-boot cross.
Man City had been below par for much of the match – Stones’ shot in the 80th minute was their first on target all evening – but with Haaland in the team there is always that threat. The victory keeps them top of Group G with maximum points from their two matches.
So close to being Bellingham’s night
It had been so close to being Bellingham’s night. The 19-year-old England international had shown his class while the Premier League champions struggled to show anything like their best form. Jack Grealish had shots blocked. Kevin De Bruyne saw crosses cleared. The Etihad waited patiently.
But when the opportunities did come in the second half, they came for Dortmund. Marco Reus went close from one counter-attack and then turned supplier soon after, Bellingham nodding beyond Ederson to spark wild scenes in the boisterous away end.
Pep Guardiola made four changes to the team that thrashed Sevilla in this competition last week with Nathan Ake, John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez coming in. Ruben Dias, Sergio Gomez, Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden were the four to drop to the bench.
The game opened up once Guardiola sent for his substitutes – Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez and Bernardo Silva all being introduced – and suddenly Haaland was in the game. Nevertheless, Guardiola will be desperately disappointed by the lack of energy before that.
Falling behind in front of their own fans has become an unwelcome habit for City, having famously extricated themselves from difficulty here against Aston Villa on the final day of last season and again more recently against Crystal Palace.
One day it will cost them.
With Haaland around, that day may not be soon.
Analysis: Haaland does things others can’t
Haaland’s finish was reminiscent of a famous Johan Cruyff goal for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid in 1973 – labeled the impossible goal as he rose to volley the ball in at the far post. More modern audiences might be reminded of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
What is certain is that there are very few players in the game’s history capable of the moments that this young man continues to produce. Borussia Dortmund were once the beneficiaries of this extraordinary talent. On this night, they were the victims of it.
Haaland now has 13 goals in his last eight games for Manchester City. It is a freakish return and yet such is his brilliance one wonders whether such a high output might be sustainable. Not quite like this, perhaps, but City are not even finding him as they can right now.
This was an unconvincing performance by the team in which he was starved of service throughout. But when the ball did reach him he looked astonishingly sharp, turning away from trouble, finding the openings for others. When City clicked, he could really have fun.
For now, it is enough. Dortmund did well. City struggled. Yet, as the supporters strode away from the stadium, it was the stunning denouement that will have been freshest in their minds. A hint of Cruyff, shades of Zlatan. But only one Erling Haaland.
Pep praises comeback but unhappy with rhythm
“We had a lot of problems to get our rhythm,” said Guardiola.
“We were so passive in our transitions. We struggled. We played in the wrong gear. When we realized we were 1-0 down and changed the dynamic on the field [by making three substitutions], it gave us another rhythm. This is who we are.
“After Sevilla, people said it was all over, it was done. I tried telling them it is not done. The Champions League does not wait. The Champions League does not forgive you.”
But it does when you have Haaland.
Guardiola said himself that it reminded him of the famous ‘impossible goal’ Cruyff scored almost half a century ago. He referenced another former Barcelona player too.
“I remember my dear friend Ibrahimovic had this ability to put the ball from the roof. He is elastic, he is flexible. He has that ability to make the contact and find the net.”
But the City coach had begun the press conference with a plea to discuss Stones as well as Haaland. That goal was the moment that changed the game. “In the first half, John Stones doesn’t try that shot, he tries the extra pass,” he added.
“We cannot play the 60 to 65 minutes we played. We are a different team.”
Analysis: Bellingham is a mix of Lampard and Gerrard
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones:
Mature beyond his years, the clamor for a more important role for Bellingham within the England set-up looks only to get louder as Qatar approaches. The debate is now not whether he’s on the plane, it’s whether you can leave him out of England’s first game on November 21 against Iran. Southgate has already seen his talents up close when deployed in an aggressive midfield role that supported the strikers.
He was man of the match after an excellent showing when playing the full friendly with Ivory Coast earlier this year before bossing the midfield after replacing Kalvin Phillips – who played just four minutes from the bench in this clash – against Germany in the Nations League over the summer.
Inexperience is not a valid argument anymore. Bellingham already has a full Championship season and almost three Bundesliga campaigns under his belt, not to mention his 18 Champions League appearances. Yet again, he was Dortmund’s most potent and creative player against City’s midfield. Bellingham had already drawn Rodri into a booking having burst past him in midfield on 53 minutes before showing his eye for goal is developing with every minute he plays. His reading of the situation to beat the City defenders to Marco Reus’ cross was very Frank Lampard-like. The way he moves with the ball is very Steven Gerrard-like.
The days of debating whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together are gone. But England may have found someone who combines the skillset of both.
Can you squeeze him somewhere? Heck, England should be building their midfield around him.
Man City’s win in stats
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 21 UEFA Champions League home games, winning 19 and drawing two. It is the longest such unbeaten run by an English side in the competition since Chelsea also recorded a run of 21 between September 2006 and December 2009.
- Pep Guardiola took charge of his 150th Champions League match, recording his 95th win. Only two managers have won more games in the competition’s history – Sir Alex Ferguson (102) and Carlo Ancelotti (100).
- Manchester City’s two goals in this game came courtesy of their first two shots on target, in the 80th and 84th minutes.
- John Stones has scored 18 goals for club and country, but this was his first from outside the penalty area.
- Jude Bellingham scored his fourth UEFA Champions League goal, the most ever by an English teenager in the competition. This was also his 18th appearance in the competition, also a new record by an English player under the age of 20.
- Aged 22 years and 55 days, Erling Haaland is the youngest player in Champions League history to score for and against the same side in the competition.
It is a quick turnaround for Manchester City because they are in action in the early kick-off on Saturday as they make the trip to face Wolves at Molineux. They return after the international break with the derby against Manchester United on October 2.
Borussia Dortmund’s own derby comes rather sooner than that. They host Schalke in the Revierderby at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday afternoon.