Five Goals, Three Records, One Player: Erling Haaland Decimates RB Leipzig

Manchester City reach the quarter finals of the Champions League
21:51, 14 Mar 2023

As a contest, Manchester City’s 7-0 victory over RB Leipzig never really got going. A 1-1 first leg in this Champions League round of 16 tie had raised expectations of a nail-biter here at the Etihad Stadium. That wasn’t the case, the contest never really took place. But as a demonstration of a new breed of footballer, the heir to the throne soon to be vacated by Lionel Messi and half-vacated by Cristiano Ronaldo, it was sublime. Erling Haaland’s five goals against Leipzig saw him break three records and equal a fourth. Welcome to the Haaland era.

City tested Leipzig’s resolve early on. Bernardo Silva’s neat ball to Kevin De Bruyne saw the Belgium international whip in a cross. The delivery was met by Ilkay Gundogan, who carelessly blasted his shot into the stand.


Haaland was next to line up, seizing on a superb ball over the top from Nathan Ake. The 22-year-old poked a shot goalwards but Janis Blaswich made himself imposing enough to block its path. There were also chances for Jack Grealish, whose shot was blocked, and Manuel Akanji who saw an effort toed away by David Raum. 

It would take a bit of fortune for City to finally take the lead on the night and in the tie. Benjamim Henrichs was adjudged to have handballed a cross directed towards Rodri. In truth he appeared to make little if any contact with the ball, but a spot kick was awarded. Haaland blasted the ball low to Blaswich’s left to open the scoring.

78 seconds later he would double his side’s advantage. The Norway international was alive to the rebound when a De Bruyne strike struck the bar. The 6’5” striker headed the ball past a scrambling Blaswich and into the net to put City in the box seat.

Leipzig were still smarting from the soft penalty decision when another piece of officiating went against them. Ederson raced out of his box to scythe down Konrad Laimer with a high challenge. The tackle was clumsy and thoughtless and the same could be said for the referee’s decision to ignore it. Only Timo Werner, who protested the decision, came away with a caution.

Haaland completed a dynamite half, and a fifth City hat-trick, just before the break. A Ruben Dias header from a Grealish corner was palmed onto the post by Blaswich. Haaland reacted first as per usual, hammer the ball home for his 31st Champions League goal. His second strike had made him both the youngest and quickest player to reach 30. This goal set him on the road to further records.

As if the first half was not exhilarating enough, City found a new gear as the second period dawned. A back-to-front move started with Ederson and cycled through to Gundogan. The German midfielder swapped passes with Grealish, set himself and slotted home. The finish was sublime, the move was scintillating. Sometimes this City side can be staid but here they were sensational.

De Bruyne, fresh from a public wrist-slap from manager Pep Guardiola, continued what had been a brilliant display. A pumped cross had the Leipzig defence at sixes and sevens before it was cleared. The resulting set piece led to another, which caused sufficient chaos that Haaland was able to slam home a fourth. A well-hit corner from De Bruyne found Bernardo Silva, who headed it to the Norwegian. Haaland might be the standout individual in this team, but he is surrounded by utter quality. 

Not content with breaking a brace of Champions League records, for his next trick Haaland broke the record for the most goals in a season scored by a City player. 39 goals is his total and it bears repeating, it is only March. A typically powerful strike flew past Blaswich who actually played far better than the five goals he had shipped by this point suggested. Haaland is just the sort of player you can’t budget for.

Haaland departed in the 63rd minute, replaced by Julian Alvarez. Five goals in a Champions League game is a flex. Five in an hour is just downright ridiculous. The fact Guardiola could bring on a World Cup winner in his stead is a testament to the rich resources the former Barcelona boss has at his disposal.

With Haaland of the field there was a well-deserved moment of glory for De Bruyne. A swerving curler from distance confounded Blaswich and drew scowls from the remaining Leipzig fans. The majestic midfielder barely acknowledged it, despite the fact it equalled their biggest ever European victory.

Only Haaland, Messi and Adriano have scored five goals in a Champions League game. If Guardiola had felt slightly more gung-ho, his young frontman may have been kept on to get to six or more. That record will likely still fall and it’ll probably do so at the flaming boots of this most prodigious talent. We were supposed to be in for a long wait to find Messi and Ronaldo’s equal. But those two men are still playing while we might be watching the dawn of the player that will surpass them.

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