Erling Haaland is inevitable. That, at least, is how it felt in Seville, and how it started to feel in stadiums all around. Pep Guardiola had insisted that it was not just about the Norwegian and if it was Manchester Don’t play well they won’t win. Here, they played well – reflected in Ederson’s first save, an easy save, and they didn’t get there until the 80th minute – they actually won, and he scored. Well of course. Twice, actually.
The man who ran a goal every 44 minutes had two more goals in 69 en route to a 4-0 win as the last Champions League The campaign begins with a claim to end with a prize. “I like this routine, it’s a routine after every game, I talk about him and his goals,” Guardiola said. “He is always always there. There is always a feeling that he can score more goals.”
That this was to be expected shouldn’t trump quality, even with Guardiola admitting he didn’t always feel like 4-0. for SevilleSure, there was a feeling that this would always happen. One of the headlines had previously said: “And to beat it all, Man City.” Sevilla is in crisis, suffering its worst start to a season in 41 years. The last thing they wanted was Guardiola’s team: the last thing they wanted was for him.
The last time they faced each other, Haaland scored four out of five in Dortmund in a 5-4 victory on aggregate. That night in this stadium, you could hear the fear every time he got up and ran, hear breathing audible, the sound of take-off in the face of the ball, and a thumping echo. It was empty then, which may have exaggerated that feeling; It wasn’t empty now but the end result was pretty much the same.
For all their problems, home fans have raised the roof. There was a roar when Papu Gómez produced nutmeg early and tried to carry their team through the crisis. In the end, they were cheering the president to resign. Seville had a bright start. It was also brief, and the nervousness within their 11-minute zone is an indication that they already knew this was going to be a long night. *
City settled into control, and Jack Grealish hit the side nets. As Haaland raced from the depths, Seville had a familiar feeling, a flash of deja vu, receding as that scramble began.
Kevin De Bruyne hit twice. Marcus Acuña cut Phil Foden’s toe. It was harsh, in its own way: not so severe, not windy, but persistent. Then came the goal, which seemed obvious – to implement as much as expected.
A movement that’s been seen a thousand times before and can be seen a thousand times again, saw Foden roll this little diagonal pass to one side of the linebacker.
De Bruyne overtook him on the other side to collect and drag him through the six-yard box. Haaland was diving in, sticking out his foot. “He has that instinct to be in the right place at the right moment: not a second or too late,” Guardiola said.
Sevilla fans soon followed, frustrated that City were keeping the ball. That they were chasing something, anything, reflected in the roar facing the first corner and the first shot, Acuña’s efforts were very far but still got the ‘huuy’. His voice was even louder when Jesus Navas – formerly for Manchester City – Thomas Delaney and Gomez got together neatly, in a sign that they might play a little bit after all.
When Seville pressed, there was a sense of life and rebellion, and the fans pushed them harder and higher. But this insistence also felt it might be their call to the trap, and the second half brought more spaces, more chances and more goals for City. De Bruyne, who was off defence, was blocked by Bono, Haaland could have turned a header, and Joao Cancelo ran wide before Rodri parried a shot. Then came the second, just as Seville progresses. “We scored when they were at their best,” Guardiola admitted.
Seti found a place to run, and Cancelo found Foden who moved one-way back and forth, bypassing Nemanja Godeli and finishing with precision. Great pass from De Bruyne, spins and turns to the right, then starts the movement that ends with City entering the ball. The flag is up, that didn’t matter, but what happened next happened. Foden was at this time and although Bono was saved, Haaland was there, in the right place, at the right time, to go home.
It was withdrawn soon after. It was done here, another destruction was completed. Although City were not, Robin Dias turned fourth in overtime.