Erling Haaland continued his record-equalling start to life in the Premier League but it was not enough to prevent Manchester City from dropping points against Aston Villa.
All eyes were on the Norwegian after he scored back-to-back hat-tricks against Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest to take his total Premier League tally to nine goals in his first five games, a record in the division. Haaland travelled to Villa Park looking to break another couple of records and many expected him to, given how Villa had started the season.
The records in Haaland’s sights were having the most goals after six Premier League matches, standing at 10 held by Mick Quinn (whose record after five games Haaland had broken) and the first player to score a hat-trick in three consecutive Premier League matches.
After the opening 45 minutes it looked as though Haaland would have a tough afternoon as Man City managed just four shots, none of which hit the target, despite having 14 touches in the opposition box. But it took him just four minutes and 11 seconds into the second half to make his mark.
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Getting onto the end of a wondering Kevin De Bruyne cross, the Belgian’s 90th assist in the Premier League, Haaland’s volley at the far post was almost inevitable to put Man City ahead – his 10th goal of the season. On his own, Haaland has outscored 14 Premier League sides this season and is level with Leeds, responsible for half of Man City’s tally. Already four goals clear at the top of the Golden Boot charts, Haaland is 1/4 with Paddy Power to finish the season as the Premier League’s top scorer – already dominating the market.
But Haaland and Man City were unable to build on his goal, with Pep Guardiola’s side still looking as though they’re trying to work out how best to feed the Norwegian, which is a strange thought considering how well he has started.
The defending champions had nine shots in total in the second half and hit the target with four including Haaland’s strike, also having 20 touches inside the Villa box, but they were still missing that killer final touch.
In the end it came back to bite them after an excellent Villa attack saw Jacob Ramsey find Leon Bailey with space inside the Man City box and the Jamaican fired the ball past Ederson to lift the Villa Park crowd and eventually end their losing run. And Steven Gerrard explained how his side came to stop the champions.
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He told Sky Sports: “Very proud – the players have come together today. They put an incredible amount of effort into the game, followed instructions. City are always going to have moments and we had to ride our luck, this is what we wanted out of the game and this is the game plan we gave them.
“Sometimes you’ve got to put more legs in the team, sacrifice certain technical levels, you have to take some space away and people in the team who can gain the ball and move forward with speed. We went with Leon [Bailey] and [Jacob] Ramsey because we felt we would have areas to break into, we did it better in the second half but we wanted to be more organised because of [Erling] Haaland and others capable of finding space.
“We praised the players after the first half for out of possession stuff but said we need to be more aggressive on the regain and believe in ourselves more but to concede against City and the players didn’t sink I was really happy with the response and the body language.
“The game plan was similar the other night and we got ourselves in the game at Arsenal but conceded too soon. They are going to have moments and no one can play perfect against City but we got the big moments right today and this performance was about the team, guts. Listen to the fans reaction, it doesn’t matter if I’m proud but that they are.
“We didn’t do much wrong against West Ham, I’ve had to tweak a few things and look at myself behind the scenes, it’s not just about players, it’s what I can do better. Do I have to sacrifice things for the bigger picture? Sometimes you have to take a few of the nice bits of your team away to put some blood and thunder in the team and some fight. We had that in abundance today.
“I’ll always take the hits, that’s my job, we have lost too many points this season and we need to do things slightly different. I’m proud of the players but there will be no pats on the back today because it is a draw. It’s a big draw but it’s still just a draw.
“I need to lead this team – I knew this job was huge and I know our run of form hasn’t been good enough. We’ve been close to that performance but the moments have gone against us, they have been kinder to us today but that’s got to be the start of us today. We have to use this and grow our results.”