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Champions League

Player ratings as Haaland brace inspires comfortable win

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Manchester City kicked off their 2022/23 Champions League in perfect fashion by cruising to a 4-0 win against Sevilla away from home.

Erling Haaland scored another two goals – his 11th and 12th for the club in only eight appearances – while Phil Foden also got in on the action with a fine strike in an excellent overall performance from the England international. Ruben Dias made it four in stoppage time.

City dominated from the early stages of the match, with Sevilla struggling to put together much of anything. But the quality from the visitors was also tellingly lacking during that period – Kevin De Bruyne’s radar seemed slightly askew and others couldn’t quite nail the final ball.

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That all changed 20 minutes in when De Bruyne did get it right, sending a fierce low ball across the six-yard box that was met by the outstretched endless leg of City’s red hot Norwegian number nine.

Half an hour in, De Bruyne himself rippled the outside of the net with a curling free-kick that had Sevilla goalkeeper Bono worried enough to fly across his goal.

Sevilla, having hardly created anything for nearly 40 minutes, saw a glorious chance to equalise in the closing stages of the first half when Papu Gomez blazed over to the right of the six-yard box.

The hosts had some renewed vigour straight after half-time after a double substitution from Julen Lopetegui, although it took an outstanding one-on-one save from Bono to stop De Bruyne from doubling City’s advantage on a rapid counter attack.

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That brief response was killed when Foden did make it 2-0, stroking a perfect effort into the bottom corner after being fed by Joao Cancelo.

Substitute Ilkay Gundogan soon thought he had made it three for City from close range, only to see an offside flag raised, but the flag stayed down for Haaland’s second of the night, pulling away from the Sevilla defenders and pouncing on a rebound from Foden’s saved shot for an easy goal.

City could have been forgiven for dropping their intensity at 3-0 up, but still they continued to swarm around Sevilla players to win the ball back at every opportunity.

Sevilla’s disappointing performances was summed up by it taking 82 minutes for their first shot on target, an effort from former Liverpool and Milan winger Suso that was easily saved by Ederson.

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Substitutes Cole Palmer and Julian Alvarez both went close to getting City’s fourth in a stoppage time melee, the former denied by a sprawling Bono save and the latter a goal line clearance. Instead, that honour went to Dias, whose tap in was impossible to miss after a delightful cross from Cancelo.

Phil Foden

Phil Foden was the most impressive Man City player on display / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

GK: Ederson – 6/10 – Not busy by any stretch of the imagination. His biggest test was racing out to clear a short back pass.

RB: Joao Cancelo – 8/10 – Almost played like an extra winger he was that far forward most of the time. Registered an assist.

CB: Ruben Dias – 7/10 – Controlled things at the back, which was probably a factor in his new partner doing well. Finished things off with a goal.

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CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Making his City debut and will be pleased with his performance. Looked assured and slotted in pretty seamlessly.

LB: Sergio Gomez – 7/10 – Impressed on his first start or the club. Will face tougher defensive tests than he got here of course.

CM: Rodri – 7/10 – Pushed really high to try and win the ball back and misplaced only one pass all night.

CM: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – Good all-round performance in the centre of the pitch. Did both sides of the game well.

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RM: Phil Foden – 9/10 – Had the vision to play in De Bruyne to assist Haaland’s breakthrough goal. Scored the excellent second himself and it was his shot that Haaland rebounded for the third.

AM: Kevin De Bruyne (c) – 8/10 – Took a little time to get his eye in but was soon pulling Sevilla apart.

LM: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Only last an hour on his return from injury, although created chances and will see it as a positive comeback.

ST: Erling Haaland – 9/10 – Another two goals. Are you even surprised? That’s now 12 in all competitions this season already.

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SUB: Ilkay Gundogan (62′ for Grealish) – 6/10

SUB: Cole Palmer (70′ for Foden) – 6/10

SUB: Julian Alvarez (70′ for Haaland) – 6/10

SUB: Riyad Mahrez (78′ for De Bruyne) – 5/10

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SUB: Kalvin Phillips (78′ for Rodri) – 7/10

Coach: Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – Good team selection initially and didn’t hesitate to pull his starters once the game was wrapped up.

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!





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Champions League

Lionel Messi breaks two Champions League records against Maccabi Haifa

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Lionel Messi’s goal against Maccabi Haifa saw him set two new Champions League records.

It wasn’t an easy night in Israel for Messi and PSG by any means, with the home side taking a shock lead 24 minutes in courtesy of Tjaronn Chery.

However, they couldn’t stay in front for long with Messi getting his team an equaliser just 13 minutes later.

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He spread the ball out wide to Kylian Mbappe who got to the byline and played it back, giving the Argentinian an easy finish from well inside the box. The goal proved to be the start of PSG’s comeback, with the French side going on to win 3-1, and that wasn’t the only reason it was significant.

With his goal, Messi scored against his 39th different club in the Champions League, setting a new record in the process.

Before that, he and long-term Cristiano Ronaldo were level on 38, and with Ronaldo not playing in the Champions League this season, the record is now set to be Messi’s for quite some time.

That wasn’t the only record the 35-year-old secured on Wednesday as Messi has now scored in 18 consecutive Champions League campaigns – every year since 2005/06 – accomplishing a feat never seen before.

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Perhaps the biggest record – most Champions League goals – still eludes him, with Ronaldo scoring 14 more, and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to make up such a margin before he retires, but it would take a brave man to put it past him.



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Champions League

Borussia Dortmund couldn’t stop me

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Erling Haaland has praised Borussia Dortmund for how they defended against Manchester City, but was keen to point out that they still couldn’t find a way to stop him.

Man City struggled to break the Bundesliga side down in what was an eventual 2-1 Champions League win on Wednesday, not having a single shot on target until John Stones’ 80th minute effort.

That shot on target was also their first goal, and their second one was the winner, with Haaland volleying his team to victory.

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The Norwegian praised the way his former team played and defended but issued a reminder that it wasn’t enough to stop him.

When told by an interview on BT Sport that BVB ‘clearly know how to stop you’, Haaland replied: “They didn’t stop me, I scored!

“But yeah, they played well and they were good, and I was quite sure I was going to be followed all game because they know me very well.

“Dortmund were really good today, and in the end, the three points is what matters.”

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Haaland’s goal was one of the best he’s scored, with the striker lifting his leg extremely high to turn in a stunning cross from Joao Cancelo.

The team’s first one wasn’t bad either, with Stones firing in from outside the box, but Haaland joked that his was the better of the two.

“Yeah, two wonderful goals today. I think mine was a bit better, honestly,” he added.

The 22-year-old now has just one goal less than Luis Suarez in the Champions League and only four fewer than Wayne Rooney.

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Champions League

Pep Guardiola lauds ‘exceptional’ Jude Bellingham after stellar Champions League outing

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Pep Guardiola was full of praise for the “exceptional” Jude Bellingham after he impressed in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League.

The 19-year-old had put Dortmund on course for a surprise win at the Etihad Stadium when he headed home Marco Reus’ centre just before the hour mark, but the Bundesliga giants were unable to hold on as late goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland turned the tide in City’s favour.

Nevertheless, Dortmund were impressive in their defensive shape throughout the 90 minutes, as well as causing problems on the counter, and Bellingham was one of the more impressive performers on the night.

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Mixing finesse on the ball with wonderful vision and instinctive reading of the game, Bellingham out-duelled the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan for large periods, and showed why he’s one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football.

Liverpool are long-term admirers of Bellingham, but judging by Guardiola’s comments after the game, there’s every chance City may look to sign the England international when the time comes for him to leave Dortmund.

“I was impressed two seasons ago when he was 17. Now he’s 19… he was good at 17, imagine now at 19,” Guardiola said of Bellingham. “He’s able to follow [Ilkay] Gundogan, Kevin [De Bruyne], win the duels, transitions are fast, to have the sense in the box for the goal he scored.

“So yes, an exceptional player. I think everybody knows it, not because the manager of Manchester City says it, everybody knows it.”

Bellingham’s manager at Dortmund, Edin Terzic, was equally full of praise for his display on the night, telling the assembled media: “Jude, like all the other players, gave a great performance in offensive and defensive terms. 

“He blocked so any passes and crosses and also got forward… once again, he was very good against Manchester City.”

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