Manchester City’s scoring sensation Erling Haaland went to a new level last night by scoring five times in a 7-0 demolition of Bundesliga club RB Leipzig, in their Last 16 second leg Champions League tie, to take his season’s tally to an astonishing 39.
The moment that he knocked in his fifth goal he became the club’s highest goalscorer in a single season, achieved in just 36 appearances, beating the previous record of 38 set way back in 1929.
He also became only the third player to score five in a single Champions League fixture, after Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano had also achieved the feat. His goals tally for the season in the competition is now 10, beating a City record and took his total to an incredible 33, scored in only 25 matches.
When Haaland went past the 30 mark, he had reached that milestone quicker than any other player in the history of the European competition. He became only fourth player to score five goals for an English side in a European game, and the first since the 1970’s.
It was his fifth hat-trick of the season and had his manager Pep Guardiola not taken him off with still almost 30 minutes to play, there is every reason to believe that he would have gone on to be the first player to score two hat-ricks in one Champions League game.
He has now scored a staggering 194 goals in 236 club games across his still young career (look out Burnley in the FA Cup on Saturday if he still fancies a double hat-trick to reach the 200 mark in one hit).
There are a further 21 goals to add to that total playing for his country, and it is worth pointing out once more that this remarkable Norwegian is still only 22-years-old, so what he can achieve is anyone’s guess.
All square going into the game
Manchester City would have been forgiven for starting the second leg of their Champions League tie with RB Leipzig in a slightly apprehensive manner, after being held to a 1-1 draw over in Germany and particularly in the second half of that game, seeming to be well below their best.
Right place at right time
They needn’t have worried. The contest was all but over by half time with City 3-0 up, and by 12 minutes into the second half it was looking like it could get to humiliating proportions for the Germans, as the Etihad outfit stormed six goals in front.
Haaland had opened the scoring with a disputed penalty and completed his hat-trick with two tap-ins, which were all about awareness and being in the right place in the box. He continued in that vein after the break and shortly after the fifth went in his manager Pep Guadiola maybe took pity on the Bundesliga team, and removed his star striker from the action.
The brilliant forward left the pitch to a standing ovation and his goals meant he had become the youngest player to cross the 30-goal mark in the Champions League at just 22 years and 236 days old. That is 116 days younger than previous recorder holder, a certain Kylian Mbappe. He also broke a long standing club record which had stood for 94 years, when Tommy Johnson scored 38 in the 1928/29 season.
Nobody will fancy facing City
As long as he stays fit anything is possible from this scoring machine and one thing is for sure, each of the seven other teams who will contest the Champions League Quarter-Finals – Chelsea, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, and Benfica; plus probably Real Madrid and Napoli baring unlikely comebacks from Liverpool and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively – will hope to avoid Manchester City when the draw is made on Friday (17 March).
Denied a chance at a double hat-trick
Haaland himself remains a humble young man and spoke of his desire to help his teammates win the competition. He pointed out that he hadn’t been brought to the club to win the Premier League because they have proved consistently that they already have the squad to do that.
He said that reading between the lines: “I am here to try to help the club to win the Champions League.” He acknowledged that his strength is scoring goals – something of an understatement! When asked how he makes it look so easy he put it down to being “quick in the mind and trying to put it where the goalkeeper is not.” He makes it sound straightforward, but he is an incredible athlete and an extremely intelligent player which when combined, makes him lethal.
He admitted he might have scored more and said he would have liked to have stayed on the pitch to try and get his second treble, but his manager saw fit to substitute him. “I told him I would love to score a double hat-trick, but what can I do?”
Manager explains substitution
Unsurprisingly, manager Guadiola was in an upbeat mood afterwards, but remained guarded as to his team’s chances of finally winning the trophy that keeps eluding them. He acknowledged Haaland’s contribution, but made the point that scoring goals is not what has cost his team in the past, it is keeping them out. “We scored four against Madrid, six against Monaco, four against Tottenham,”he said.
Continuing, he then almost tongue-in-cheek tried to explain why he took his superstar striker off, denying him the opportunity of a double hat-trick. “If he achieves this milestone at 22, his life would be boring; so now he has a target to do it in the future.”
Upbeat Guadiola harbouring disappointment
Clearly in a playful mood the Spaniard then went off at quite an extreme tangent when he let it known his three idols in life are Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and somewhat bizarrely… Hollywood star Julia Roberts. He said even if City were to win the Champions League it could not ease his disappointment of Ms Roberts choosing to go and watch United play instead of City, on her previous visit to Manchester, just over six years ago.
The strong suspicion amongst the startled press was that any lingering resentment would very quickly pass, should his side, most probably with the help of his gifted centre-forward, go on a win club football’s top prize.
In good company
Haaland became just the third player to score five goals in a single Champions League fixture, following Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano.
Messi had become the first player to gain the distinction when playing for Barcelona against Bayer Leverkusen in March of 2012, his goals coming in a thumping 7-1 victory at the Nou Camp. It remains the only club match in Messi’s glittering career that he has scored five goals.
It would be a brave person who would stake money on Haaland failing to repeat the feat before the end of his career. Messi did go on to score a quite staggering 73 goals in 60 games that season, so the Norwegian does have some way to go to threaten those figures.
Record to aim for
Slightly less impressive was when Brazilian Luiz Adriano equalled the little Argentinian magician’s record in 2014, as his goals came when playing for Shakhtar Donetsk in their 7-0 away annihilation of little known Belarussian side BATE Borisov.
He had also scored a hat-trick in the first leg in Ukraine, giving him eight goals in the tie overall, which is a record that Haaland might want to aim for, although that probably will have to wait until next season.
Ten more in European Cup
Prior to the onset of the Champions League in 1992, there were actually ten other players who managed five goals in a single match when the competition was in its old format as the European Cup. These were:
Owe Ohlsson for IFK Göteborg against Linfield, September 1959
Bent Löfqvist for B1913 against Spora Luxembourg, September 1961
Altafini for Milan against Union Luxembourg, September 1962
Raymond Crawford for Ipswich Town against Floriana FC, September 1962
Nikola Kotkov for Lokomotiv Sofia against Malmö FF, September 1964
Flórián Albert for Ferencváros against Keflavík IF, September 1965
Paul Van Himst for RSC Anderlecht against Haka, September 1966
Gerd Müller for Bayern Munich against Omonia Nicosia, September 1972
Claudio Sulser for Grasshopper Club Zürich against Valletta FC, September 1978
Søren Lerby for Ajax against Omonia Nicosia, October 1979
Three other English based players achieved five in Europe
His five goals in the match meant that Haaland became only the fourth player to score five goals for an English side in a European game, and the first since 1976.
As mentioned above, Crawford did it for Ipswich Town in 1962, then Peter Osgood repeated the scoring exploit for Chelsea in 1971, before Kevin Hector became the most recent before last night, when he struck five for Derby County in 1976, when they destroyed Irish outfit Finn Harps 12-0. They actually scored nine of those goals in the first half and the last of the twelve came with still a quarter of an hour to go, so in hindsight, Hector might kick himself for not setting an unassailable total.
Two other players, Charlie George and Leighton James also scored hat-tricks in that victory and Hector actually scored two more in the return leg, a game in which the Derby manager Dave Mackay humorously was quoted as saying prior to the fixture: “We will be underestimating our opponents!”
Haaland moving up the charts
Haaland had started the evening level with Ryan Giggs and Edin Dzeko in the Champions League scoring charts with 28 goals. By scoring five in one match he immediately went past David Trezeguet, Patrick Kluivert, Roy Makaay, Kaka, Wayne Rooney, Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Eto’o and Arjen Robben, and joined Fernando Morientes on 33.
With potentially a further five fixtures in this season’s competition still to play, he will fancy his chances at passing Edinson Cavani on 35, and maybe even catching Mbappe on 40 and Sergio Aguero on 41, which includes a club-record 36 for Manchester City.
He does have some work however to threaten those further up the standings. Passing Andriy Shevchenko’s and breaking into the top ten will require him to overhaul his 48 goals. Then, to make the top three, he will have to get close to trebling his current total and getting beyond Robert Lewandowski’s 91, and the fact that the Barcelona star continues to play, that figure could rise even further.
Top scorer a long way off but not impossible
Should Erling Haaland manage to reach the number one slot then he will have had a career to sit alongside the very best players ever, as currently the Champions League’s all-time top scorer, is the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo, on a quite unbelievable 140 goals.
However, with over a decade of top-level football potentially ahead of him, that target is certainly not out of his reach.