Man City benefit from early VAR call but Haaland looked unstoppable in five-goal outing

MANCHESTER, England — Erling Haaland scored five times as Manchester City hammered RB Leipzig 7-0 to book their place in the Champions League quarterfinals.

City reached the last eight for the sixth year in a row after Haaland found the net five times in under an hour at the Etihad Stadium. Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne were also on the scoresheet in the rout.

Haaland is the third player to score five goals in a Champions League game after Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano while also breaking City’s single-season goal record less than a year after joining the club from Borussia Dortmund.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)
– Read on ESPN+: The best men’s player right now? Crunching the numbers

Rapid reaction

1. Haaland’s five breaks Mbappe and Messi mark

The numbers being generated by Erling Haaland in his first season in England are astounding and they’re only getting more impressive. After scoring five times against RB Leipzig — including his fifth hat-trick of the season — the Norwegian is now on 39 goals, already one more than City’s single-season record of 38 set by Tommy Johnson in 1928-29. It’s only March and with City still in three competitions, Haaland could easily pass 60 by the time the campaign is over.

His second goal against RB Leipzig — a close-range header after harassing Janis Blaswich into a mistake — made him the youngest player to reach 30 goals in the Champions League at 22 years and 236 days, ahead of Kylian Mbappe (22 years, 352 days) and Lionel Messi (23 years, 131 days).

Pep Guardiola said ahead of this week that games against Crystal Palace, RB Leipzig and Burnley would decide their season. Two matches down, and Haaland has made the key contribution in both. He was signed by City to decide crucial games at the business end of the season and that’s what he’s doing. Burnley should be worried ahead of their visit here in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Champions League knockout round draw: Full details

2. VAR review allows for floodgates to open

RB Leipzig came to Manchester believing they could cause a shock after earning a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Germany but they never got the chance to make it a nervous night for City. Supporters inside the stadium didn’t know what was happening when Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic began trotting over to the pitchside monitor to look at a potential penalty that no one else had spotted.

Even after the review, it seemed very harsh to judge that Benjamin Henrichs had handled Rodri‘s header. Haaland didn’t care and scored his 35th goal of the season from the penalty spot and, while the remnants of RB Leipzig’s protests were still being aimed at Vincic, the Norwegian got his second of the night.

In the space of two minutes midway through the first half, RB Leipzig’s game plan was in tatters and at 3-1 down on aggregate, they were left facing an almost impossible task. By the time Haaland sealed his hat-trick in first-half stoppage time, it was game over and the second half was little more than a training session for Guardiola and his players.

City were heavy favourites before the game and RB Leipzig would have probably lost anyway, especially with Haaland in this kind of form, but coach Marco Rose has every right to feel his team weren’t helped by the officials.

3. Aside from Bayern, Bundesliga’s top sides get harsh lesson

RB Leipzig are out, joining Borussia Dortmund in being eliminated by a Premier League side after they were ousted by Chelsea. Bayern Munich, the best the Bundesliga has to offer, are still involved after they knocked out Paris Saint-Germain but the rest of Germany are playing catch-up with the big budgets in England.

RB Leipzig haven’t been past the last 16 since reaching the semifinals in 2020 while Dortmund’s best is three quarterfinals since reaching the final in 2013. It might have been different for RB Leipzig had Christopher Nkunku been available for more than just 24 minutes across the two games but the French striker is a good example of why the likes of Leipzig and Dortmund will struggle to regularly break into the top eight teams in Europe.

Nkunku is heading for Chelsea in the summer while Dortmund’s best player, Jude Bellingham, could follow Haaland to City if they can fend off competition from Real Madrid and Liverpool. It’s hard to play catch-up when you’re constantly having the rug pulled from under your feet.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Erling Haaland, ST, Man City
Scoring five times in a Champions League knockout game is a frightening achievement.

BEST: John Stones, DF, Man City
Played at right-back and in midfield and excelled in both positions.

BEST: Kevin De Bruyne, MF, Man City
Criticised by Guardiola in the build-up to the game but scored a stunning seventh goal.

WORST: Janis Blaswich, GK, RB Leipzig
He made a poor mistake as RB Leipzig conceded a quick second goal.

WORST: Timo Werner, FW, RB Leipzig
The former Chelsea striker had a night to forget on his return to England.

WORST: Josko Gvardiol, DF, RB Leipzig
Going against one of world’s best strikers in Haaland, one of the best young defenders saw his side concede five goals in under an hour.

Highlights and notable moments

Good situational awareness by Haaland, who scored his second goal (after the first one on a controversial penalty) by finding himself in the right spot following Kevin De Bruyne’s belter bounced off the woodwork.

But De Bruyne got his on the night, saving it for the waning seconds of the match with a beautiful curling shot.

After the match: What the managers and players said

Erling Haaland on his five-goal night: “My super strength is scoring goals. Should I be honest? A lot of goals today, I didn’t think. I was just trying to get it into the back of the net … A lot of it is being quick in the mind and trying to put it where the goalkeeper is not.”

Pep Guardiola on subbing off Haaland: “If he achieves this milestone at 22, his life would be boring! He has something to aim for.”

Haaland on being subbed off early, to BT Sport: “I told Pep when I went off that I would love to score a double hat-trick but what I can do!”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

– Pep Guardiola was the coach for both Haaland and Messi on their five-goal performances in the Champions League. Messi’s occurred in a round of 16 match vs. Bayer Leverkusen in 2011-12.

– Manchester City tie their own record for the largest margin of victory against a German team in the Champions League (7-0 vs Schalke in 2018-19 round of 16).

– This is the seventh time that a German team concedes 6-plus goals in the Champions League. Pep Guardiola has been the coach in four of those games (one at Barcelona and three at Man City).

Up next

Manchester City: Hosting Burnley in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Saturday (stream live on ESPN+ at 1:45 p.m. ET) before the FIFA international window. They return to action on April 1 against Liverpool in a league game.

RB Leipzig: At VfL Bochum on Saturday (stream live on ESPN+ at 10:30 a.m. ET) in the Bundesliga before the break. Hosting Mainz 05 on April 1.


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