Erling Haaland’s game seems tailormade for the Premier League, and he displayed why on Sunday afternoon in London.
The 22-year-old Norwegian giant, signed from Borussia Dortmund over the summer, scored two goals on his Premier League debut in a 2-0 win over West Ham at the London Stadium.
In the bright sunlight and with his dad, Alfie – a former Man City player himself – in the stands, he showed why he was the hottest property in football this summer, his raw athleticism and finishing ability looking a frightening prospect already.
In the first half, Haaland latched onto a through ball which many other players would have failed to reach, touching the ball around the on-rushing Alphonse Areola before being brought down for a penalty which he converted.
Then, after the break, he sprinted past a static-looking West Ham defense into the path of a beautifully weighted Kevin de Bruyne pass before slotting home to double the lead.
Haaland was substituted 12 minutes before the end and having missed a chance to secure a debut hat-trick, he said it was a “bit sh*t” that he wasn’t able to achieve the feat having done so on his Dortmund debut.
“If you saw the [Ilkay] Gundogan moment, I should have been there [to connect with Gundogan’s cross],” he admitted in his post-game press conference.
“It’s about the connections we do everyday in training and practicing so we get better and this will come even more, so I’m not worried. There were some good celebrations, so I’m happy. Nice that he [his dad Alfie] saw both goals as it is a big moment for me as a debutant in this competition. We have to keep going.
“Also, now, it is almost 30 minutes since I scored the last goal so I have to keep going.”
Haaland’s arrival in Manchester was accompanied by much fanfare.
The thought of adding one of the most dangerous young weapons in world football – who scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund – to Pep Guardiola’s already lethal attack was mouthwatering for City fans and terrifying for the other 19 Premier League teams.
But his debut on British soil in the Community Shield loss to Liverpool at the end of July tempered excitement, as the Norwegian missed two glorious chances to score.
However, when it came to Haaland’s competitive debut, he didn’t miss a beat, terrorizing West Ham’s defenders from minute one with his athleticism and striker nous.
After the game, City manager Guardiola praised Haaland’s ability to recover from the criticism he received last week and display why he’s already one of the most feared strikers in the league.
“I know how he handled a lot of criticism this week,” Guardiola said in his post-match press conference. “He was really calm, he trained really well, but the way he took the ball for the penalty I said: ‘I like it.’
“So direct and I think if someone is taking the ball, he would punch them in the face even though they are his mates! And that is a pretty good sign. To be so confident, I like it.”
Guardiola even referenced coaching Lionel Messi and the similarities he sees between the two when it comes to scoring as many goals as possible.
“I was fortunate as manager to be with Messi and when he scored two, he wanted three, and when scored three, he wants four.
“The top goalscorers are never satisfied, they are always hungry and starving and want more.”
Even Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time top scorer with 260 goals, hinted that Haaland might be coming for his record, tweeting: “258 to go!!!!”