It is an anomaly of the most successful period in Manchester City’s European competition history that their main striker has had a goal drought during it.
Erling Haaland had not scored in five Champions League matches, stretching back to last season, before City’s 3-1 victory at Young Boys on a sodden Wednesday night in Bern.
But with City pulled back level in Switzerland through Meschack Elia’s exquisite chip, their star forward rediscovered his shooting boots.
City were a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League before. With Haaland scoring again, they are positively terrifying.
It is small wonder that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola feels everyone outside the club is waiting, and hoping, for the Norwegian to stop scoring.
After his blistering first season at City in which he scored 52 goals in 53 games to fire the club to the Treble including a maiden Champions League title, Haaland had drawn blanks against Crvena Zvezda and RB Leipzig in City’s opening Group G matches.
This coincided with the absence of midfield providers Kevin de Bruyne, out injured, and Ilkay Gundogan, now at Barcelona.
And in the first half in Bern Haaland looked frustrated, snatching at a one-on-one after 23 minutes and sending the ball spinning wide.
In the pouring rain and on an unfamiliar artificial surface, he needed a gimme – and got it when Rodri was fouled in the box on 67 minutes.
Haaland slammed home the penalty and looked more like his old self.
‘Haaland will score goals all his life’
“It is important to have the chances, the people want him to fail,” Guardiola told TNT Sports after the match.
“I am sorry, but this guy will score goals all his life. With the chances he is an incredible threat.
“The players need the ability to find the pass like Kevin de Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan. But he is going to score until the last day he plays football.”
That penalty was Haaland’s first Champions League goal in 543 minutes of action, since putting City 4-0 up on aggregate at Bayern Munich in the second leg of their quarter-final last season.
It was his longest drought in the competition – yet it has not stopped his statistics looking absolutely ridiculous, particularly his scoring rate.
Those stats were further boosted with four minutes of normal time remaining in Switzerland, when Haaland made the game safe through a fabulous finish from the edge of the box, shifting the ball on to his right foot and curling it into the roof of the net.
He has now scored 37 goals in 33 Champions League games.
At 23 years 96 days, Haaland becomes the youngest player to score that many Champions League goals, breaking the record held by Kylian Mbappe who was 199 days older.
These landmarks demonstrate just how high the bar has been set for Haaland by himself. Even when he drops to human levels, it represents a notable loss in form.
“He is just like any other striker – people get on to him because of the season he had last year,” team-mate Rico Lewis told TNT Sports. “It is a credit to him and what he did last year.”
But thanks to Haaland, City have now won five consecutive games in the Champions League for the first time since May 2021, when they won seven games in a row.
Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in their past 16 Champions League matches, winning 10 and drawing six, with only Manchester United between 2007 and 2009 having a longer run without defeat among English teams in the competition.
With City’s main man firing again, few would bet against those records being extended.