EPL

In this type of game, you need Erling – Pep Guardiola hails hitman Haaland

By Sports Desk February 20, 2024

Pep Guardiola admitted his side needed the killer instinct of Erling Haaland after they edged out Brentford 1-0 in a nervy encounter that left his side one point behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Haaland settled the contest in the 71st minute when he punished a slip from Kristoffer Ajer, running from the halfway line to slot the ball under the unfortunate Mark Flekken, who had another outstanding match against the reigning champions.

After a week in which Guardiola had to answer questions about the Norwegian star, whose misses proved costly in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea, Haaland made no mistake with one of the very few clear chances a well-organised Brentford side afforded City on the night.

“If I had to choose one (player), I choose this one,” Guardiola said of the moment.

It was Haaland’s third goal in seven games since returning from the foot injury that sidelined him for two months. Last week, he mourned the death of his grandmother Tone Rascal, mother of his father Alf-Inge, at the age of 80.

Asked if he had needed to speak to the striker, Guardiola said: “We spoke about the moment and I realised this later, but he didn’t say anything about the passing away of his grandmother. We talked about how he feels and of course for his father.

“In this type of game like Brentford, you need Erling. With not much space, you can play with a typical striker.”

City struggled to break down a determined Brentford side. Kevin De Bruyne was kept on the bench throughout the night, not even emerging to warm up with the game in the balance, and Guardiola revealed the Belgian playmaker had a hamstring issue, having already missed five months of the season.

“Today we could not use Kevin because he had niggles in his hamstring and I didn’t want to take risk,” he said, adding: “He’s okay. It’s just a precaution but he didn’t feel comfortable and so after five months off we didn’t take any risk.”

Brentford had defended doggedly before the goal, more than once having all 11 players inside their own box in open play. Bernardo Silva headed a glorious chance wide before Oscar Bobb created space only to shoot straight at Flekken, but otherwise there were few real opportunities.

Having taken six points off City last season, Brentford threatened to do damage to their title bid again this time before Haaland stepped in – he has now scored against all 21 opponents he has faced in the Premier League.

“I think throughout the game we were brilliant, I’m very proud and pleased with the players’ performance,” Bees manager Thomas Frank said. “They believed and it gives me a lot of belief in them going forwards.

“The way we defended the whole game was magnificent in terms of structure, defensive principles, urgency. Before the goal, we gave away the header to Bernardo Silva and the Oscar Bobb chance and it was two big chances. If you can limit City to two big chances, you have done a very good job.

“If (Ajer) doesn’t slip I’m convinced it would not be a goal. Haaland is quick but Kristoffer is as quick. City are good so they don’t need the margins going their way.”

Related items

  • Mikel Arteta salutes ‘unbelievable’ Kai Havertz after another impressive display Mikel Arteta salutes ‘unbelievable’ Kai Havertz after another impressive display

    Mikel Arteta hailed an “unbelievable” performance from Kai Havertz after his two goals helped Arsenal move three points clear at the top of the Premier League with a thumping 5-0 win over Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.

    The 24-year-old, who struggled in his early appearances after swapping Stamford Bridge for north London in the summer, gave a superb display against his former side as the leaders heaped more misery on visiting manager Mauricio Pochettino, who saw his ninth-place team slump to a worst-ever league defeat against Arsenal.

    Havertz struck twice as part of an 18-minute blitz in the second half as Arteta’s team won for the second time in four days, continuing their recovery from successive losses to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich.

    “He (Havertz) was unbelievable, in all departments,” said Arteta.

    “For a nine to score two goals the way he scored, his contribution was great. It’s a question for him but I’m sure he’s very pleased.”

    The Arsenal onslaught began after only four minutes, Declan Rice sliding the ball into a channel on the left of the penalty area from where Leandro Trossard took over, dinking past defender Alfie Gilchrist, on his first Premier League start, and thudding it through the legs of Djordje Petrovic.

    Thereafter Chelsea competed gamely, going close to equalising when Axel Disasi just failed to reach a flick-on from a corner and again when Nicolas Jackson’s effort was deflected onto the post by Gabriel, but in the space of under 20 minutes after the interval they fell to pieces.

    First, Ben White reacted quickest to sweep home after Rice’s shot was blocked, then Havertz got his first of the night with a lofted finish over the goalkeeper.

    The former Chelsea forward made it 4-0, his shot pinging in off the post with Petrovic rooted, before White provided the moment of the match with a cross-shot that sailed across the face of goal and in from Martin Odegaard’s pass.

    “It was a big performance, collectively and individually,” said Arteta, whose side moved clear at the top ahead of Sunday’s derby against Tottenham but have played a game more than Liverpool and two more than Manchester City.

    “I thought we were really good, against a really good team that was in great form and were going to ask us a lot of questions. I think we responded really well.

    “From the start we were really determined, really flowing, playing with a lot of courage and making things happen. Really happy with the result. It’s a big day for our supporters.

    “It’s great for us, for the confidence and for the belief that we can do it, we can come to these stages against big teams and win games the way we’ve done it tonight. So enjoy it, then it’s back to work tomorrow because we have a big one on Sunday.”

    Chelsea boss Pochettino, for whom Arteta admitted to have “all the sympathy in the world,” gave a downcast assessment of his team’s prospects of qualifying for Europe after a humbling loss.

    “Now it is difficult to see the future because after this game we feel disappointed,” he said. “It is difficult to talk about objectives.

    “If we compete like Saturday (in the FA Cup semi-final defeat to City), OK. But if we compete like today, I think we deserve to go into Europe? I think in this way, no.”

  • Reggae Girl Van Zanten eyes strong comeback from season-ending injury Reggae Girl Van Zanten eyes strong comeback from season-ending injury

    The thought of being sidelined for an entire season is almost too much for some players to bear, but Jamaica international Kalyssa ‘Kiki’ Van Zanten has embraced her darkest hour with confidence that she will emerge stronger than before.

    Van Zanten, 22, who represents Houston Dash in the United States’ National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was placed on the season-ending injury list, after she suffered damage to her left foot in the match against the Washington Spirit last Friday.

    The American-born Reggae Girlz winger, made the revelation on social media, as she expressed her readiness to take on whatever obstacles came her way on what will be a challenging road back to enjoying her passion.

    “Absolutely devastated that my rookie season has been put on hold. I’ll come back better and stronger,” Van Zanten captioned the post, which included an X-ray image of the injury.

    Van Zanten was drafted with the number 21 overall pick in the 2024 NWSL Draft and signed with Houston Dash on March 15. She paraded her skills in four games this season and earned her first start on March 30, when the Dash earned three points on the road against Bay FC.

    Prior to her professional move, Van Zanten strutted her stuff for University of Notre Dame in the NCAA Division 1 Women’s tournament, where she made 95 appearances and scored 27 goals.

    On the international stage, the soft-spoken player, whose mother is Jamaican and father of a Dutch descent, made her Reggae Girlz debut during the Concacaf Women’s World Cup qualifiers in 2022. She scored her lone international goal against Costa Rica in Jamaica’s Concacaf Women’s Championships third-place finish in Mexico.

    Van Zanten known for her speed and flair on the channels, was also a part of Jamaica’s history-making team that secured a famous Round of 16 finish at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

    While she grapples with the reality of her injury, Van Zanten finds solace in the support of her teammates, coaches, and fans. Their words of encouragement and unwavering belief in her ability to come back stronger provides the comfort and strength required to face the long road to recovery.

    “Thank you to my team, family and friends for all the support,” she said.

  • Enzo Maresca delighted as ‘fantastic’ Leicester move to brink of promotion Enzo Maresca delighted as ‘fantastic’ Leicester move to brink of promotion

    Enzo Maresca praised his Leicester players for the 5-0 thrashing of Southampton that put the Foxes a win away from clinching automatic promotion.

    Ghana winger Abdul Fatawu scored three of them, with Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy also on target.

    Leicester need only to win at Preston on Monday, or at home to Blackburn on the final day, to make sure they will finish ahead of at least one of Leeds or Ipswich. Indeed, if Leeds lose at QPR on Friday Leicester will be up before they take to the field again.

    Maresca, in his first season as City manager, said: “I don’t think that was the best performance of the season but the performance was fantastic, very good on and off the ball.

    “We could have been better on the ball but we are all very happy because the opposition are a fantastic team.

    “The good thing about tonight is that now we know that with one win we get promoted.

    “It was a good feeling at the end, the fans have been fantastic.”

    Fatawu, on loan from Sporting Lisbon, opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall played him through. The 20-year-old might have been offside but the flag stayed down. Southampton manager Russell Martin was also aggrieved that a challenge on Saints striker Che Adams by City defender Wout Faes was not given as a foul by referee Robert Madley.

    The second half belonged to Leicester though, with Ndidi charging in to head home a cross from Stephy Mavididi to double the lead.

    Fatawu struck again in the 75th minute when he accepted a pass from substitute Hamza Choudhury before smashing past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

    Fatawu set up Vardy for a well-taken fourth and completed the rout with an emphatic finish after the former England striker returned the favour.

    Maresca, however, joked: “I just said ‘next game you will be on the bench’ because with Abdul and young players especially, after three goals he is already thinking he is a top player.”

    Saints – famously beaten 9-0 by Leicester in the Premier League in 2019 – must now pick themselves up for the play-offs barring an extraordinary combination of results and scorelines.

    Martin made it clear he would not be doing that for them though, so disappointed was he with their capitulation.

    “The players need to show a bit of love for each other and pick each other up, I’m fed up of doing that,” he said.

    “They need to feel some pain – the same pain that I’m feeling right now.

    “Rolling over like that, it’s actually pathetic, losing 5-0. They have to rally round as a group and show some care for each other.

    “I did not like what I saw from my team one bit at 2-0 down. Self-preservation, our body language and people throwing their hands up in the air.

    “It surprised me actually. What can you do? I told them I didn’t like it.

    “I told them Che Adams is out of contract this summer and the one person who has the excuse if he didn’t really want to be all in and not work hard for his team, but he did that more than anyone. So it was inexcusable for anyone else not to do that.

    “The fans were amazing, they were still clapping at the end and deserved better than that.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.