According to Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Erling Haaland’s sensational winner against Borussia Dortmund echoed two greats in the form of Johan Cruyff and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
On Wednesday, Haaland scored an acrobatic 84th-minute volley from Joao Cancelo’s expert centre to secure three points for City against his former club in the Champions League.
It was a fine turnaround after John Stones had already cancelled out Jude Bellingham’s opener at the Etihad Stadium with a fierce long-range hit.
Guardiola compared Haaland’s athletic effort to Cruyff’s famous strike for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid in 1973, which is often referred to as the “ghost goal” due to the scarcity of available quality footage.
“Perhaps those who know me are aware of the impact Johan Cruyff had on my life, as a person, an educator, a manager and mentor, everything,” Guardiola said.
“Johan Cruyff scored an incredible goal against Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou many years ago. It was very similar. I immediately thought of Johan Cruyff after he scored.
“It was very similar. It was a fantastic one. Joao’s pass is exceptional; he has the ability to do this type of thing. Simple things, he has to do this with every ball he has, and I know he can do it. You can’t force it in football. He made an incredible assist pass, and Erling’s finishing was superb.”
While Guardiola looks up to Cruyff, he had a tense relationship with one of European football’s modern greats, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The striker only stayed at Barcelona for a season during Guardiola’s tenure, and the two did not get along.
Guardiola sees similarities in skill level between Haaland and the Milan forward, who is now the youngest player in Champions League history to score for and against the same team in the competition, though he couldn’t resist a sarcastic remark.
“I remember a little bit my friend, my dear friend Ibrahimovic, had this incredible ability to pull back in the air, you know, and Erling is quite similar on that,” Guardiola added with a smile.
“He is elastic and flexible, with the ability to make the contact and put it in the net. He is mature, and he is adaptable.”
Guardiola managed his 150th Champions League match as manager, and he won his 95th. Only Alex Ferguson (102) and Carlo Ancelotti have won more games in the competition’s history (100).
However, it was not an easy ride, with City underperforming until Dortmund took the lead. Their two goals came on their first two shots on goal.
“We had a lot of problems getting our rhythm, we were so passive, our movements to be aggressive,” Guardiola explained, comparing the match to City’s previous meeting with Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals in April 2021.
“Yes, we struggled, and we were playing in the wrong gear. We are who we are, win or lose, because of how we played in the final 30 minutes when we realized we were 1-0 down. We changed the rhythm.
“The Champions League does not wait and does not forgive. They defended really well, and hopefully we can learn from it for Saturday’s game against Wolves, one of the toughest opponents we’ve faced in recent years, and it will help us against Dortmund in the [return match].”