Haaland’s trap

One of the main keys to magic is to play with the audience’s attention. Divert the focus to one point, while what is really important happens elsewhere. Both maneuvers come together and end in appearances, disappearances… In tricks that leave those present speechless. Something like that happened throughout the tie between Real Madrid and Manchester City. The trick, the threat without effective damage, was Erling Haaland.

The name of the Norwegian starred in the entire preview. This came from breaking the record for goals in a single season in the Premier League in his first year in the English league and focused attention as the main danger of Manchester City. The ‘gross’ stats (goals) said that. The man born in Leeds has brought new records (playing long or behind, more direct) and another dimension to City. It is such a real fact, like the fact that number 9 has not been the main star against Real Madrid. Haaland worked as a lure for De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva to put City in Istanbul to fight for their first Champions League in their second final with Pep Guardiola.

In search of ‘El Dorado’

In his approach, Pep Guardiola undertook the search for his particular ‘Dorado’. Throughout his career, the coach has insisted on the existence of ‘indefensible zones’ that could be opened up by using his wide-open ends. He constantly seeks to attack that space that is generated between the centrals and the wings. In the first leg, the whites contained City in this plan and in trying to feed Erling Haaland. A collective task in which Rüdiger stood out.

In the return at the Etihad and after Guardiola saw the good defensive performance of the whites in the first leg, he changed the plan for a more offensive one. “We have attacked very well inside where the spaces were. In the first leg, I decided to put an interior further back and today, I decided to put it further forward. When we managed to get out, we found a space to be able to attack more fluently, ”he assured on the Movistar microphone. Rüdiger’s non-ownership does not seem to have helped Real Madrid in this job either.

De Bruyne assists Bernardo Silva
De Bruyne assists Bernardo Silva

His search paid off. City embedded De Bruyne, Gundogan and Bernardo Silva in search of that golden area. Haaland continued to focus attention, Real Madrid neglected the aid and the Portuguese was the one who dynamited the tie with his goals.

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Haaland’s two great header chances came from passes from that danger zone. Grealish, with a magnificent cross, and Akanji, prolonging a good delivery from the right by Kevin de Bruyne with a header, left the Norwegian two free balls. Only Courtois prevented Haaland from being a ‘phantom threat’.

‘El Dorado’ was found by City behind Camavinga’s back. Deschamps, the French coach, already warned in an interview in L’Equipe that same Wednesday that what cost him the most as a winger was closing the center. The skyblues blew it up in the first one. The centrals were attentive to Haaland; Modric and Kroos didn’t sweep the area well either and De Bruyne didn’t take long to find Bernardo Silva. The Portuguese defined violently against Courtois.

For the second, they suffered again in the same area. Haaland had the attention of the two central defenders while Gündogan, surely the inside forward that Guardiola mentioned, cut towards the ‘indefensible zone’. This one tried to define, but finally it was Bernardo Silva again who appeared from the second row to put the rebound with a final header.

Pass from Grealish to Gundogan as centre-backs keep an eye on Haaland
Pass from Grealish to Gundogan as centre-backs keep an eye on Haaland

These two goals made the tie tremendously difficult for the whites, who saw a mistake by Militao on a set piece definitively doomed the whites’ chances. Of course, there would still be one more photo. The one that Haaland loved so much, who had a low chance that Courtois also avoided. Still, his work was essential. The Nordic giant was another weapon. Instead of a cannon, it was a trap.

Julián did in a race what Haaland could not

Haaland left the green with a smile to make way for Julián Álvarez. The Norwegian knew that Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for goals in a single edition (15 goals) was slipping away when he came out to zero against Real Madrid in 180 minutes (12 goals), but he knew that he would have one more life and would be closer than never to win the Champions League.

Julián Álvarez defines against Courtois to make it 4-0
Julián Álvarez defines against Courtois to make it 4-0OLI SCARFFAFP

Everything that Haaland wanted, the Argentine did with the only ball he touched in the game. With Madrid already delivered, La Araña cut through the middle of the white area, eating up the central defenders while looking to receive a perfect pass from Foden. He beat Courtois for the fourth time, raising the defeat to the category of a win and certifying the second ticket in the club’s history to the Champions League final.

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