Erling Haaland doesn’t often miss penalties.
Erling Haaland doesn’t often hit straight at the goalkeeper when one-on-one.
And Erling Haaland doesn’t pass up a third invitation to score.
Having sliced over the crossbar from 12 yards in the first half of Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich, and then shot straight at Yann Sommer in the 55th minute, Haaland might have been forgiven for thinking it was not going to be his night on Wednesday.
Yet even when Haaland does, indeed, miss, he still must score. It’s as predictable as day turning to night. Death, taxes and Haaland scoring goals.
It’s just what he does, and he did it again – for a 48th time this season – 57 minutes into a thrilling game at Allianz Arena to fully ensure City would not let their 3-0 aggregate lead from the first leg slip.
For much of the first half, Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern had run City’s defence ragged. Leroy Sane seemed like a man possessed against his former club, but could not find the finishing touch.
Previous incarnations of Pep Guardiola’s team might not have had the physicality up top to exploit such a stretched game, but they do now.
Haaland enjoyed, and won, a personal tussle with Dayot Upamecano all game. The Norway international was fist pumping when, in the 18th minute – just after Sane had fired wide at the other end – referee Clement Turpin was brandishing a red card Upamecano’s way, with Bayern’s centre-back having dragged City’s number nine to the ground just outside the box.
A delayed offside flag spared Upamecano, though his luck ran out when, 10 minutes before half-time, Ilkay Gundogan’s shot struck his outstretched arm.
Yet again, Upamecano’s blushes were spared. Haaland skied his spot-kick, missing a penalty for the first time in his last 16 attempts in all club competitions, since doing so for Borussia Dortmund against Union Berlin in April 2021.
Bayern went into half-time with the scores level, down but not out. They had, in fairness, been the better side; 10 shots to City’s four and an open play xG of 0.91 to their visitors’ 0.09.
The end-to-end, thrill-a-minute football continued after the break. Kingsley Coman, teed up by Sane, tested Ederson, before the magnificent Jack Grealish slipped in Haaland at the end of a rapid City counter. Sommer, though, was up to the task.
Ederson could only watch as Coman flashed a low cross-shot across the face of goal soon after, but Bayern could only play with fire for so long.
Fifteen seconds later, City were celebrating. Kevin De Bruyne had released Haaland who, after sitting Upamecano down on the turf, slammed home. About time.
23 – Kevin De Bruyne has assisted 23 goals in all competitions this season, now his most in a single campaign for Man City (overtakes 22 in 2019-20), and five more than any player for clubs in Europe’s big-five leagues in 2022-23 (Lionel Messi 18). Platter. pic.twitter.com/iIbwMGRakB
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 19, 2023
Haaland has scored 13 Champions League knockout-stage goals in only 10 such appearances. It was his 12th goal in the competition for City, matching the single-season record for a player of an English cub, level with Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 2002-03 campaign. He is averaging a goal every 66 minutes across all competitions.
Bayern benefitted from a soft handball decision of their own when Sadio Mane’s effort deflected up and hit Manuel Akanji’s arm. Joshua Kimmich lashed his penalty down the middle, but it was a mere consolation in the grand scheme of a tie that finished 4-1 to City on aggregate.
A Mane miss from close range and Tuchel receiving his marching orders to the stand for dissent capped off the Bavarians’ Champions League exit.
Tuchel was brought in to ensure domestic success and progress in Europe. Six games into his tenure, Bayern lead the Bundesliga only on goal difference, while it is City who will face holders Real Madrid in the last four.
2/6 – Thomas Tuchel has won only two of his first six games in all competitions with Bayern Munich, the last FCB head coach to win only two of his first six games in charge was Sören Lerby in 1991. Out. #FCBMCI #ChampionsLeague pic.twitter.com/TSUkImnT7F
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) April 19, 2023
That’s a rematch of last season’s semi-finals, when City dominated in the first leg only to capitulate late on in the second.
Having been denied by Tuchel in Porto two years ago, City – the third English team to have qualified for the Champions League semi-finals in three successive seasons – have put one ghost to rest already. Now, it’s time for another, and with Haaland on board and firing, it could just be their time.
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