Four minutes is all it took
Four minutes into the highly anticipated opening fixture between defending champions Manchester City and newly-promoted Burnley, Rodri pulls back a looping cross from the other side to find Erling Haaland, who was swarmed by a host of defenders. Haaland stretches his leg and directs the volley into the far corner to give Man City the opening they wanted. Could there have been a more predictable beginning to the Premier League than the Norwegian scoring with his first touch of the season?
It’s easy to get swayed by the cast of new plots and new protagonists. Haaland though pulled all attention towards him, when he found himself on the cusp of a hat-trick just forty minutes into the game. Manchester City were nowhere near the fluency that we expect from them, and yet they manage to steal the game 3-0 against what looked like very promising, well-drilled opponents.
His second goal was a thing of beauty, of controlled power and precision. Overcoming two goals deficit is never an easy job, let alone if you’re down against Manchester City, as Burnley would have realised.
There was a sense of deja vu in how Haaland started his sophomore year at the club. Just like the last season, Haaland came off on the back of a meek performance in the Community Shield, and doubts started hovering over his head, but only for him to shut up the noises with a quick brace.
Haaland was the chief beneficiary of the City’s more direct approach. With John Stones and Ruben Dias out due to injuries, City struggled to build up from the back and instead played a more direct game, often releasing Haaland through long balls. It needs to be seen how things shape up once their main defenders are back in the team.
Even though they’ve got the result, Guardiola would surely prefer more control rather than relying on long passes to their striker. It was evident from his reaction after half-time when Guardiola rushed to Haaland for explanations, and then take a swipe at the camera. As the manager would explain in the post-match press conference, he wasn’t pleased with Haaland’s continuous insistence on demanding a quick ball from the midfielders.
“He wants the ball to him all the time, man to man, one on one. ‘Give me the balls in behind and I’m going to do it’. But when you have two or three minutes left and Kovacic goes in behind and we lose the ball, and Rodri loses the ball,” said Guardiola.
“Erling wanted that ball and Bernardo was correct not to give him that ball. It’s not an incident. It’s a connection to do exactly what it is we need to do. There’s no problem at all. He scored two goals, I think he’s happy.”
Haaland will be in action this Wednesday as they take on the Europa League winner Sevilla for the Super Cup.
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