Pep Guardiola said Erling Haaland’s acrobatic winner against Borussia Dortmund evoked memories of the late, great Johan Cruyff as the Manchester City striker continued his phenomenal goalscoring form for his new club.
Haaland scored his 13th goal in only nine appearances for City as they overturned Jude Bellingham’s opener to record a late victory over the striker’s former club at the Etihad Stadium. John Stones equalised with a stunning strike from distance before the Norway international launched himself at an exquisite João Cancelo cross to seal victory in the 84th minute. For Cruyff disciple Guardiola, the goal was comparable to one scored by the Dutch master.
The City manager said: “The people who know me maybe know the influence Johan Cruyff had on my life as a person, as an educator, as a mentor, as a coach and everything.
“Years ago Johan Cruyff scored an incredible goal in Camp Nou for Barcelona against Atlético Madrid similar to Haaland. The moment Erling scored I thought: ‘Johan Cruyff’. It was quite, quite similar. It was an incredible assist by João and the finishing from Erling was exceptional.”
Guardiola also compared Haaland’s technique to his former Barcelona bete noire, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He added: “I remember my dear friend Ibrahimovic had this ability to put his leg on the roof and Erling is quite similar in that.
“ I think it is his nature, he is elastic, he is flexible, and after that he has the ability to make the contact and put the ball in the net. I think his mum and dad give him that flexibility.”
City struggled to break down Dortmund until the final stages, when the introduction of Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva and Julián Álvarez instigated a vast improvement in their attacking display. “It was quite similar to two years ago when we played against them in the quarter-finals of the Champions League,” said Guardiola.
“We had a lot of problems to reach our rhythm and were so passive in our movements. We struggled. We played in the wrong gear. When we realise we are 1-0 down and have the dynamic of Phil, Bernardo and Julián, that gave us another rhythm. The Champions League doesn’t wait and it doesn’t forgive you.”
Haaland hugged almost every Dortmund player and member of their backroom team after the final whistle. When asked about how well his former team-mates had defended against him, the City striker replied: “They didn’t stop me. I scored.”