Man City 3 Wolves 0: Erling Haaland puts Prem strugglers to the sword with ANOTHER hat-trick to put pressure on Arsenal
PEP GUARDIOLA CALLED for guts, fire and passion.
What he got was cool, calm, and collected finishing from a player destined to be one of the greatest strikers of all time.
The cries of ‘Haaland, Haaland, Haaland’ that greeted his substitution with his job done after another hat-trick will have had the hairs on the back of the young forward’s neck standing up on end.
Such receptions are usually saved for legends of long-standing, not someone who has been here for just half a season.
But his incredible impact has deserved the esteem in which he is held by the faithful at The Etihad.
His 25 league goals after 20 games is already more than Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min scored in sharing the Golden Boot last season, they both hit 23.
Indeed Haaland’s current total in the first month of the New Year would have won him that same award in each of the last four seasons.
In all he has 31 goals in 25 games and he probably has at least as many games left this season.
To think former City midfielder Didi Hamann told Sky Sports during City’s derby defeat that this was a better team without him last season.
Clearly we didn’t give them enough credit then for that title win because it must have been a better side than we thought.
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That comment came at the end of Haaland’s goal drought of three games.
Fair to say after one in the fightback against Spurs on Thursday and his fourth hat-trick of the season this afternoon, normal service has been resumed.
Manager Pep Guardiola had complained that his team and the home fans had lacked that edge and passion after the victory over Spurs.
He could have few complains at the way they dismantled this Wolves side and the way the supporters lapped it up.
As can often happen here they had to be patient against an opponent happy to sit deep.
Rather than fight fire with fire as Wolves racked up three bookings in the first quarter of an hour, including one for their boss, City kept their composure and ground their opponents down.
From the word go City simply worked the ball around the pitch to find that gap they always tend to discover in the end, and exploit.
Well, I say simply, it’s not simple, it just looks it for City on days like this.
It took until the 40th minute for Haaland to break the deadlock.
The Norwegian goal machine had revealed in midweek how it was his former Molde boss Ole Solskjaer who had identified a weakness when it came to his heading and worked on it.
Not a problem now as was proved when he nodded Pep’s men into the lead.
Riyad Mahrez shaped like he was going to the byline before slipping a ball back with the outside of his left boot for Kevin De Bruyne to deliver one of his sumptuous crosses.
It was perfect for Haaland and Nathan Collins did not stand a chance as he jumped to challenge him.
Indeed the 6ft5 City frontman was probably a good three foot above the Wolves defender when he planted his forehead on the ball and sent it flying past Jose Sa.
While Wolves might have been complaining early on about decisions it was City who had most to moan about at the break after a penalty claim on 42 minutes.
Jack Grealish was clearly caught on the back of his calf by Collins outstretched leg as he evaded him and went down.
A VAR look later decided otherwise.
Grealish came close to getting justice just moments later but his goalbound shot was cleared off the line by of all people Collins.
No worries, as City simply went up another level after the break as Haaland struck twice within ten minutes of the restart.
The first of those, and his second of the afternoon, came from the penalty spot after Ruben Neves had brought down Gundogan.
Then when Jose Sa delivered a woeful pass out from his box, Mahrez intercepted and squared for Haaland to side foot into the bottom left-hand corner.
His job done Haaland was subbed off for a rest with Julian Alvarez taking his place.
“I don’t think he’s human,” says a fan on a TV advert talking about Haaland.
By the end of this season, someone might just have to check.
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