Man City started their Champions League campaign with a comfortable 4-0 victory away at struggling LaLiga team Sevilla on Tuesday night. Erling Haaland scored twice, continuing his fantastic run of form.
As Man City piled on the goals in the second half, Haaland became the youngest player ever to score 25 goals in the Champions League. The Norwegian international was joined in scoring by Phil Foden, and in the final seconds of regulation, defender Ruben Dias added a fourth.
In his news conference on Monday, Pep Guardiola made fun of the fact that whenever Manchester City starts a new Champions League campaign, the first question is always, “When are you going to win it? ”
He is aware that until he wins the title, these questions will persist, but a commanding 4-0 victory over Sevilla — highlighted by two more goals from Erling Haaland and one apiece from Phil Foden and Ruben Dias — will give him hope that this year might finally be the year.
Sevilla, who has dropped five straight games in addition to starting the LaLiga season winless, started with two 20-year-olds in the centre of their defence (Jose Angel Carmona and Tanguy Nianzou). However, they had no answer for Haaland, especially given his movement in the penalty area, and Man City were in complete control from the moment he scored his first goal of the game after 20 minutes.
On paper at least, this should have been their most difficult away game in Group G, but given how easily they won without shifting out of second gear, they should easily advance to the knockout rounds. City’s performance in the league this season will be decided there, but Guardiola couldn’t have asked for a better start.
In the previous two years, Guardiola’s club has advanced to a final and a semifinal, and this time, they have Haaland.
At the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, the announcement of Haaland’s name was met with loud jeers from the home crowd, and it is easy to see why. He nearly single-handedly eliminated Sevilla when representing Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 in 2021, scoring four goals in two games as the Bundesliga team triumphed 5-4 overall. He scored twice in the first leg in Spain and added two more goals on Tuesday night while playing for Man City.
Apart from his physical prowess, Haaland’s ability to open up space in the penalty area may be his most lethal tool. On two occasions, he was in a position to tap in from close range with a one-touch finish.
Since joining City, Haaland has scored 12 goals in seven games, giving him a total of 25 goals in 20 appearances in the Champions League. To put things into perspective, after his first 20 Champions League games, Lionel Messi had eight goals and Cristiano Ronaldo had none. Also unfortunate for Tottenham, who travel to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday in the Premier League, is the fact that Haaland has scored in each of his last five outings.
A world-class striker in top form is a scary combination, as Sevilla discovered once more to their detriment.
Even though very few people in the city expected Sevilla to defeat Man City, the outcome will have little bearing on Lopetegui’s chances of remaining in his position. Sevilla has started their LaLiga campaign with just one point from their first four games and currently sits in 17th place in the table.
The 56-year-old has led Sevilla to three straight fourth-place finishes in Spain and won the Europa League in 2020, but there is a growing sense that something may change.
Lopetegui has performed so admirably that he was considered to replace Erik ten Hag as manager of Manchester United before that decision was made. He should have no trouble at all finding work if and when his time at Sevilla ends.
It’s unlikely that the former Spain manager’s career will come to an end after losing to one of the best teams in the world, Man City, but observers will be looking for signs of improvement in games against Espanyol, who are two spots ahead of Sevilla in 15th place, and FC Copenhagen over the next week.