There was a time when football’s self-appointed experts stroked their beards and asked in a scholarly manner whether Erling Haaland could cut it in the Premier League. But the boy with the L’Oreal hair and the viking dimensions just continues to break records. He is now the highest single-season scorer in Premier League history. His team, who themselves netted their 1000th goal under Pep Guardiola’s management tonight, might yet lift the Premier League trophy. But whether it ends with a trophy or not, Haaland’s goals have made this season and games like this 3-0 win over West Ham United memorable for City supporters.
Both sides came into this game below full strength. West Ham suffered a spate of illnesses with the highest profile being Declan Rice missing a first Premier League game this season. City meanwhile were without Kevin De Bruyne and Ederson. The first half played out like a game between two rotated sides, with the Cityzens getting the better of a tepid 45 minutes.
Julian Alvarez tried one from distance in the opening moments, with Lukasz Fabianski saving well. The ex-Arsenal keeper did even better when Jack Grealish squared for a Riyad Mahrez snapshot.
Grealish was a constant threat from the left hand side, with one cross being headed away by Angelo Ogbonna and a superb outside-boot ball being nodded over by Erling Haaland. The England winger also stung Fabianski’s gloves when striking a John Stones pass. The linesman missed the intervention and gave a goal kick, but it was a fine reaction save.
City went closest just before half time, when Rodri exchanged passes with Haaland before rolling a shot off the post. It demonstrated in microcosm how fortunate the Hammers were to go in goalless at the break.
West Ham’s resistance would not last long though. Four minutes into the second period, Nathan Ake rose to power home a Mahrez free kick. Ogbonna played the City defender onside and Ake made no mistake with his header. It was a sickening start to the half for the previously-resolute Hammers.
So close 😬
West Ham’s night nearly went from bad to worse when City had a penalty appeal. Haaland was shaping to shoot when Thilo Kehrer upended him with a sliding tackle. The VAR verdict deemed that the defender got the ball, but there were some nervous looks exchanged among the away side.
Alvarez, always keen to impress on a rare start, nearly whipped one round Fabianski. The World Cup winner is the sort of player that would start for almost any team that doesn’t have Erling Haaland in their ranks. For that reason he likely won’t wear City blue forever. But oh what squad depth while he does call the Etihad home!
Mere moments later, Haaland reminded everyone why even a talent as enviable as Alvarez struggles to start. Grealish’s smart through ball drew Fabianski off his line. Haaland’s dinked finish broke the Premier League scoring record in a single. His 35th strike took him above Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer to seal the outright record.
As if that wasn’t enough history-making for one evening, substitute Phil Foden scored City’s 1000th goal under Guardiola’s management. The record arrived in just 404 games, an outstanding record of goalscoring achievement. The England midfielder’s deflected strike from distance was no more than City deserved for a completely one-sided display.
City are back on top of the table. Haaland is on top of the scoring charts. There is a chilling inevitability to the way this season will end, at least in the Premier League. But with a squad peaking together and a superstar enjoying his finest form, you wouldn’t put success in other competitions past City. With Manchester United to come in the FA Cup final and a two-legged Champions League semi final with Real Madrid to play, Guardiola’s men could make some very real history here. The word “treble” conjures a very vivid picture of a certain time and place here in Manchester. But perhaps those collective memories will have to make room for some recollections involving Haaland and his teammates.