Erling Haaland is carrying on where he left off before being rudely interrupted by a World Cup he wasn’t invited to. The Norwegian followed up his Carabao Cup goal against Liverpool with a second-half double on Wednesday night as Manchester City cut the gap at the top of the Premier League to five points with victory in his home city of Leeds.
In front of watching father Alf-Inge, once of the United parish, Haaland took his tally to 26 goals in 19 games this season as the champions exposed the gulf in class between the two sides. Leeds manager Jesse Marsch, who played a hand in Haaland’s development at Red Bull Salzburg, could only wish for such playing riches.
Haaland could have scored inside a minute as he outpaced the Leeds defence only for Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier, passed fit to start after a bout of glandular fever, to thwart him with a flailing left hand. He sprang the Leeds defence just after the half-hour mark but again Meslier was equal to the challenge.
Jack Grealish single-handedly wasted three chances before the break, spooning crosses from Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne over the bar before a shocking miss from an opportunity presented on a plate to him by teenager Rico Lewis who made an impressive first Premier League start. But a minute into injury time the dam finally broke as City broke the deadlock after a brilliant move from the edge of their own penalty area.
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De Bruyne surged forward down the Leeds left, picked out Rodri who shipped the ball on immediately to Mahrez. His shot was saved by the sprawling Meslier but Rodri was on hand to put the ball into the next. It was the Spaniard’s first goal of the season.
The game ended as a contest in the 51st minute when Liam Cooper sold Robin Koch horribly short on the halfway line. Grealish nipped in and faced with a one on one with Meslier, squared the ball unselfishly to Haaland who placed the ball into the net. Fourteen minutes later and an exchange of passes with Grealish opened up the chance for Haaland to side-foot the ball past Meslier and make it 3-0.
The Haaland Show plays on. Leeds lack in certain areas but fight is not one of them and they refused to go quietly. Pascal Struijk pulled a goal back with a header from a corner with 17 minutes left and had substitute Joe Gelhardt been able to deflect a decent chance inside the far post, instead of outside it, shortly afterwards it could have made for a lively finish but City had enough in hand to close the game out.
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For Kalvin Phillips, an unused City substitute at the ground where he made his name, it was a noisy return. Pep Guardiola’s complaints that he had returned from the World Cup overweight were manna from heaven for the Leeds faithful who greeted his presence with a chorus of “Kalvin Phillips – he eats what he wants.”
When he warmed up in the second half he was serenaded with: “You’re too fat to play for Leeds.” But after responding with a broad smile and applause the old Elland Road refrain of “the Yorkshire Pirlo” rang out in his honour. If City don’t need him, Leeds would take him back in a heartbeat.