As Erling Haaland watched the fourth official slowly put up his board and tell the world the Nowegian’s day was done, Haaland left his short conversation with Kevin De Bruyne to make way for Julián Álvarez. It was a completely fair decision by Pep Guardiola. Álvarez is a fantastic striker, and a World Cup winner lest we forget, but his one crime is not being Erling Haaland.
As the bright red number nine went up on the board, Haaland put on his famously infectious dry smile and left the pitch with half an hour left to play, but his damage was more than done. The 22-year-old equalled Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano's Champions League record as he put five goals past RB Leipzig, making the continent’s greatest tournament look like a pickup match as his side won 7-0 on the night.
They weren’t great goals, far from it, in fact. It was a penalty, a header off an ambitious De Bruyne shot and three separate goalmouth scrambles. But no matter the scenario, the end result was the same: Ball in the back of the net, goal credited to Haaland.
TWO GOALS INSIDE TWO MINUTES. ERLING HAALAND WITH HIS 30TH #UCL GOAL. pic.twitter.com/rg7EMukU9j
Erling Haatrick. pic.twitter.com/L5kP6yAK0d
THIRTY EIGHT GOALS IN ALL COMPETITIONS FOR ERLING HAALAND. pic.twitter.com/ub4mctLBGW
As the goals kept flying past Janis Blaswich in Leipzig’s net, so too came and went the records. At first approaching Manchester City’s all-time single-season goal mark, then in the blink of an eye he was level, and before the commentators could fully explain the significance of the goal, he had only gone and beaten it. 39 goals in 36 appearances is a genuinely outrageous feat, let alone for a 22-year-old, let alone for a player in his first season, let alone for a club playing in the Premier League and Champions League. At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s only March.
ERLING HAALAND TIES THE RECORD FOR MOST GOALS IN A #UCL MATCH. 5 AND COUNTING... pic.twitter.com/lBkpu8COwB
There are smiles abound and why wouldn’t there be? Haaland is playing a different sport from his competitors and they are, rather unfairly it seems, being judged by the same scoreboard. He seems to score at will. When he’s on he’s more than unstoppable, unplayable, inevitable.
İlkay Gündoğan scores Manchester City's 100th goal of the season.It's March 14! pic.twitter.com/2lAf63sdDQ
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 14, 2023
Kevin De Bruyne saves the best for last, it's 7. pic.twitter.com/Q1Lz71tljt
And for what it’s worth, his teammates are potentially even better. Two further goals from İlkay Gündoğan and De Bruyne sent Leipzig home in a fashion they will not soon forget. A humiliating loss, courtesy of the brilliance of Manchester City and the inescapable goal-scoring fiend that is Erling Braut Haaland.