Erling Haaland continues hot streak as Manchester City burn past Sevilla

Erling Haaland is inevitable. That, at least, is how it felt in Seville, and how it is starting to feel in stadiums all over the place. Pep Guardiola had insisted that it is not just about the Norwegian and that if Manchester City don’t play well they will not win. Here, they did play well – reflected in Ederson’s first save, an easy one, not arriving until the 80th minute – they did win, and he did score. Well, of course. Twice, in fact. The man who was running at a goal every44 minutes got two more in 60 en route to a 4-0 win as another Champions League campaign opens.

That it was expected, that the demands are for them to win it all, should not eclipse the excellence. For Sevilla, certainly, there was a sense that somehow this was always going to happen, that they would not be able to live with City. “And to cap it all off, Man City,” one headline had said beforehand.

Sevilla came into this in a crisis, a single point from their opening four games representing their worst start to a season in 41 years. The last thing they wanted was Pep Guardiola’s team turning up: the last thing they wanted was him.

The last time they had faced him, Haaland had scored four of Dortmund’s five in a 5-4 aggregate score. Here, in this stadium, you could hear the fear every time he was up and running. The intake of breath was audible, the sound of boot against ball a boom that echoed round.

The ground was empty then, which may have exaggerated that feeling; it was not empty now, 18 months on, Guardiola inviting people not to miss out on a stadium that is “special” and, for all their problems, they rose the roof.

There was a roar when Papu Gomez produced an early nutmeg and that attempt to carry their team momentarily looked like it might work. Sevilla’s start was bright. It was also brief, a moment of nervousness inside their own area on 11 minutes an indication that they had already realised that this might be a long night in which finding a way out would not be easy.

City settled into control, Jack Grealish coming inside and hitting the side-netting at the near post. When Haaland started to accelerate from the middle of the pitch, Sevilla had a familiar feeling, backing off but knowing he was not going away. Twice Kevin De Bruyne struck wild shots over the bar. Marcos Acuña had to nick one off Phil Foden’s toe. It was relentless, in its own way: not intense, as such, and not a storm, but insistent. And then the goal came, an inevitability about it – as much in execution as expectation.

A move that has been seen a thousand times before and might just be seen a thousand more, saw Foden toll that little diagonal pass to one side of the full-back. De Bruyne went past him on the other to collect it and pulled it across the six-yard box. Diving in, leg out, was Haaland.

Erling Haaland pounces to open the scoring against Sevilla.
Erling Haaland pounces to open the scoring against Sevilla. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

Soon there were whistles from Sevilla’s fans, frustrated at how easily City kept the ball, and reaching for something, anything. That was reflected by the roar that met the first corner and the first shot that came with it, Acuña’s shot going a long way wide but still getting an “huuy” as if it had been closer. It was louder again when Jesús Navas, Thomas Delaney and Papu combined neatly for the latter to shoot over, a sign that maybe they would be able to play a bit after all.

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When Sevilla pressed, there was a feeling of life, of rebellion, and the volume rose. But the insistence that they do so also felt like it might be inviting them into a trap and the second half brought more opportunities, wider spaces and more goals for City. De Bruyne, clear of the defence, was denied by a superb save from Bono, Haaland might have done a little better from a header and Cancelo scuffed a shot wide before Rodri bent over. And then came the second goal, just as Sevilla stepped up.

City played their way through the press – just – and were away again. They found room to run, Cancelo found Foden and, inside the area, he shifted from one foot to the other, away from Nemanja Gudelj, and finished neatly, his low effort going into the corner. A glorious clipped De Bruyne pass, looping and spinning out to the right, then started a move that ended with City walking the ball into the net. The flag went up; that didn’t count, but what came next did. Foden was in this time and, although Bono saved, Haaland was there to roll it home.

He was withdrawn soon after. His work here was done, another destruction complete. City’s, though, was not. Rúben Dias turning in the fourth in added time.

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