Football Features

Who is Erling Braut Håland? The Norwegian wonderkid following in Wayne Rooney’s Champions League footsteps

By Chris Smith

Published: 10:50, 18 September 2019

The Champions League group stages are well and truly back with a bang.

Defending champions Liverpool lost 2-0 away to Napoli, while Inter Milan struggled to a draw at home to Slavia Prague and Frank Lampard’s managerial debut in this competition ended in a 1-0 defeat to Valencia at Stamford Bridge.

But what about the games involving some of the lesser-known lights dining at European football’s top table this season? And what about some of the other narratives that went under the radar?

Let’s dive in and see what you might have missed.

1. Håland walking in famous footsteps

Erling Braut Håland – son of former Man City man Alfe-Inge – is a name that’s been whispered in the footballing world for some time now but on Tuesday, he truly announced himself.

The Norwegian youngster bagged a hat-trick on his Champions League debut as Red Bull Salzburg sunk Belgian side Genk 6-2, becoming only the third teenager to do so after Yakubu and a certain Wayne Rooney. Who can forget that performance against Fenerbahce all those years ago?

Furthermore, those three goals came from the 19-year-old’s only three shots throughout the game. Absolutely lethal.

And his Man Utd connection doesn’t even stop at matching Rooney’s feat, as current Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer helped craft the talent Håland has become during their time together at Molde in the 2017/18 season.

2. Last season’s UCL darlings off to a fine start

Ajax really were the golden boys of Europe last season, marching to an unexpected Champions League semi-final and falling literally minutes short of making it all the way to Madrid.

They got their group stage campaign this season off to a brilliant start, thrashing the 2018/19 Ligue 1 runners-up Lille 3-0 at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

Goals from new boys Quincy Promes and Edson Alvarez gave the Dutch champions a commanding lead before Argentina international Nicolas Tagliafico put the game beyond all doubt with a header in the 62nd minute. Ajax were known for their beautiful football last season, their 18-pass build-up for Alvarez’s goal suggests they’ll be right at it again this term.

De Godenzonen have reached at least the Champions League quarter-final stages in each of the last five years where they’ve won their first group game, so we should just put them in the draw now, right?

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3. Werner at the double in impressive Leipzig win

RB Leipzig are turning heads this season. Die Roten Bullen held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw at the weekend to remain top of the Bundesliga and, on Tuesday, pulled off a superb 2-1 win away to Benfica to get their Champions League group stage campaign off to a perfect start.

Timo Werner was the man to make the difference, bagging twice in clinical fashion to extend his scoring start to the season to seven goals in six games in all competitions.

Those Red Bull sides look like they’re going to cause trouble.

4. Genk make history despite thrashing

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Genk in their mauling to Salzburg as the Belgian side did manage to make a little bit of history.

Mbwana Samatta scored Genk’s second consolation goal and although it didn’t seem too significant at the time, the 26-year-old forward became the first Tanzanian player to score a goal in the entire history of the Uefa Champions League.

5. It’s an omen

Valencia. What an absolute basket case of a club.

Days after parting ways with manager Marcelino in the most controversial of circumstances, Los Che travelled to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in a clash few expected them to take anything from, considering they’d never previously beaten the Blues in any competition.

Well, they defied the odds, winning 1-0 to take what could be three huge points in Group H. Furthermore, the last two Spanish teams to win at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League went all the way to the final (Barcelona in 2006 and Atletico Madrid in 2014). No pressure, lads.

6. Misery hates company

It’s very early days for Frank Lampard at Chelsea and he’s already shown enough to suggest he can make a success of himself as manager, but there’s no denying it: Tuesday night was miserable.

Not only did the Blues’ 1-0 defeat to Valencia leave them with a real uphill task for the rest of the group stages, but it also left Lampard as the only manager in the club’s history to lose his first Champions League match in charge.

Ten of the previous 11 had won, while Gianluca Vialli drew with AC Milan in 1999. Not the sort of history you want to be making.

7. Italian job

The last two seasons have been pretty special for Liverpool in the Champions League, reaching the final in 2017/18 before winning it last term.

However, what has gone slightly under the radar is their absolutely horrific recent away form in the competition. Of their six games on the road last season, the Reds lost four of them, going down to PSG, Napoli, Red Star Belgrade and Barcelona, although the latter they famously turned around at Anfield in the second leg.

And they’ve started this season off in similar fashion, slumping to a 2-0 defeat at Napoli, again, on Tuesday night after looking good for at least a point for large chunks of the contest.

In the process, Liverpool have now become the first reigning European champions to lose the opening game of their title defence since AC Milan did so against Ajax in 1994/95, ending a run of 14 wins and 10 draws during that time.

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