Erling Haaland has announced himself on the biggest stage with a red-hot performance, this time in a 2-1 win over European heavyweights PSG. This was just the latest chapter in the teenager’s meteoric rise.
These kinds of nights were made for Neymar or Kylian Mbappe. Or so we thought. Both were upstaged by Borussia Dortmund’s teenage sensation, who is scaling the heights of world football after another astonishing display of finishing.
His winning goal, the second in a 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain, was reminiscent of the late winner Mbappe, then a teenage prodigy himself, scored at the same end of Signal Iduna Park for Monaco almost three years ago. Collecting Gio Reyna’s pass, Erling Haaland rifled the ball into the top of the net, raising the roof of both the goal and the stadium, which broke into feral celebration when the winner flew in.
For a man who had just announced himself on the biggest stage, Haaland was surprisingly calm after the game:
"These are the moments you play football for," he said. "I really enjoyed it, but I know that I have lot to improve. I want to go far in the Champions League."
If he keeps on improving, then the rest of Europe has as much of a problem as Dortmund’s remaining opponents in the Bundesliga. This was yet another night of class and ruthless finishing in the meteoric rise of an outstanding striker, who is putting up the kinds of number rarely seen before by a teenager at this level. Mbappe and Neymar are the last to cause a similar stir at Haaland's age, but both were eclipsed on this night.
Haaland gets the plaudits
Haaland’s teammates continue to speak highly of him too, with praise coming from all quarters for this latest match-winning performance.
"He still has huge room for improvement but he is on the road to becoming a truly great player," Axel Witsel said, while Emre Can’s praise spoke of Haaland’s personality: "Of course he’s a great footballer, but he’s also a great guy. He’s a little bit crazy I think, funny, and hopefully he will continue like that."
Dortmund coach Lucien Favre was also asked about the man who has breathed new life into their season and, potentially, into Favre’s own position as coach.
"He is someone who has immense mental strength, and he always wants to go forward," Favre said. "He has a super attitude that helps the whole team, and that's all at the age of 19."
Dortmund's job is far from done and PSG take an away goal back to the Parc des Princes for the second leg, a game they will have to play without Marco Verratti and Thomas Meunier, both of whom picked up yellow cards. Dortmund were surprisingly measured in their approach; it was less gung-ho and more detail-orientated than we usually associate with Lucien Favre’s Dortmund.
A team that are just as likely to be cut open at the back as they are to shred opponents, were disciplined, particularly in midfield. While the strategy was clear; smother PSG and then swarm forward in numbers, Can and Witsel were key in the second half as Dortmund used the ball with diligence and probed PSG with patience.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel, on the other hand, was left to defend his formation selection after the defeat. A man usually so assured of his tactical approach, the PSG coach switched to a 4-3-3 formation for the French champions' biggest game of the season so far. It backfired. Dortmund figured them out after the break, and got behind Tuchel’s side with increasing frequency, eventually resulting in Dortmund’s victory. And Tuchel’s stubbornness in sticking with a flawed system during the game and then defending it afterwards will ring in the ears of Dortmund fans, who have heard it all before.
"We have no regrets," Tuchel said. "I have to make decisions before the game and I take responsibility. Nobody can say what would have happened with a different system."
What we can say with some certainty is that the hottest forward in the world made another big statement on the big occasion. And that player isn't Mbappe or Neymar.
Relive the action as it happened...
Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain
(Haaland 69', 77' — Neymar 76')
Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
22:57 Erling Haaland to DAZN after the game: "I want to go far in this competition... These are the nights you live for."
90+2' Thiago Silva heads a corner from Neymar just over the crossbar.
90+1' Dortmund substitution Marcel Schmelzer replaces Jadon Sancho, a tactical change from Lucien Favre.
90+1' Two minutes added on
90' Yellow card Marquinhos gets booked.
89' Yellow card Marco Veratti gets booked for arguing with referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz. He will miss the second leg in Paris.
81' Neymar jumps on a loss ball on the right side of the penalty area and fires, but his shot hits the top off the post and out of play.
77' PSG substitution Pablo Sarabia replaces Angel Di Maria, a straight change from Thomas Tuchel.
77' GOAL Erling Haaland puts Dortmund ahead again! Mats Hummels picks out Giovanni Reyna on the right wing. The 17-year-old American slots a pass to Haaland, who unleashes a thundering shot into the back of the net. Borussia Dortmund 2, Paris Saint-Germain 1
76' GOAL Neymar provides Paris Saint-Germain with a crucial away goal. Kylian Mbappe breaks down the right and crosses, with Neymar taps the pass in from close range. Borussia Dortmund 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1
69' GOAL Erling Haaland gives Borussia Dortmund the lead! Achraf Hakimi's cross finds Raphael Guerreiro, who touches it on to Erling Haaland. The Norwegian striker finishes from close range. Borussia Dortmund 1, Paris Saint-Germain 0
67' Dortmund substitution Giovanni Reyna replaces Thorgan Hazard, a straight change from Lucien Favre.
67' Achraf Hakimi fires a long-range curling effort just over the crossbar.
66' Neymar finds Kylian Mbappe on the right side of the penalty area. The young Frenchman fires, but Roman Bürki holds firm for the save. Neymar's follow-up effort falls wide right.
65' Thorgan Hazard tries to find Erling Haaland with a cross, but the pass is easily cut out by Thiago Silva.
61' Jadon Sancho, Raphael Guerreiro and Axel Witsel combine well on a corner routine, but Sancho's cross at the end of it falls in a sea of PSG defenders.
59' Yellow card Neymar sees yellow for elbowing Axel Witsel's chin during an unsuccessful nutmeg attempt.
54' Yellow card Idrissa Gueye gets booked for a foul on Axel Witsel
50' Thorgan Hazard makes a terrific run into the penalty area, but his cross is blocked out of play.
46' Second half underway!
21:45 Some halftime statistics
44' Yellow card Axel Witsel is booked for a foul on Angel Di Maria
43' Erling Haaland plays the ball out wide to Thorgan Hazard, but Marquinhos blocks Hazard's cross out of play. Jadon Sancho's ensuing corner is cleared by Thiago Silva.
41' Dan-Axel Zagadou pushes Angel Di Maria off the ball before the Argentinian winger can unleash a shot. PSG have only one shot in the game to this point.
36' Emre Can wins a ball in midfield and starts the break. He finds Jadon Sancho on the left, but the English winger's cross for Erling Haaland is just out of his reach.
35' Erling Haaland receives the ball on the left side of the penalty area and lets and effort loose, but his shot hits the side netting. One one shot from either side has been on target.
27' Jadon Sancho receives a pass on the right side of the box and fires, but Keylor Navas makes the save — the best chance of the game so far.
24' Jadon Sancho crosses from the left, looking for Erling Haaland at the near post. But the ball falls to Keylor Navas.
23' A free kick by Jadon Sancho meets the head of Mats Hummels, but the Dortmund defender heads it over the bar. Neither side has a shot on target.
14' Jadon Sancho makes a run on the break, but his shot from the top of the penalty area skips wide left.
14' Achraf Hakimi goes to ground and hits a pass out of play. Neymar's ensuing corner is cleared at the near post by Erling Haaland.
11' Neymar curls a free kick just outside the right post.
3' Jadon Sancho appears to have gotten through the PSG defense, but the flag is up for offside.
1' Kickoff! The game in Dortmund is underway.
20:55 The Borussia Dortmund fans organized a terrific pregame choreography.
20:45 Michael Zorc to Sky Sports before the game: "We need to be brave, concentrate and defend together, especially since the game is at home."
20:10 Lukasz Piszczek is making his 50th Champions League appearance for Borussia Dortmund. He is wearing the captain's armband for the home side.
20:05 Neymar is making his first start after missing four games with a rib injury. He has a goal and two assists in two Champions League games.
20:00 Lineups are in!
BVB: Bürki – Piszczek, Hummels, Zagadou – Hakimi, Can, Witsel, Guerreiro – Hazard, Haaland, Sancho
PSG: Navas – Meunier, Kimpembe, Thiago Silva, Kurzawa – Verratti, Marquinhos, Gueye – Di Maria, Mbappe, Neymar
Former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel returns to the Westfalen Stadion for the first time as they host Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 clash on Tuesday night. In the prematch press conference, the German played down the significance of his personal history at the club, saying that he was solely focused on the "huge challenge" that his team would be facing over the two legs.
Both teams are very capable of scoring, but Dortmund have also shipped a lot of goals in recent weeks, and BVB coach Lucien Favre told the prematch press conference that his team would be looking to keep the score down on Tuesday night. Dortmund are hoping the newly arrived defensive midfielder Emre Can will help shore things up at the back.
Dortmund could also field another arrival, 19-year-old striker Erling Haaland in Europe for the first time. The Norwegian has scored nine goals in six games in all competitions for Dortmund, but he also scored eight in six matches for his former club, Salzburg in the group stage.
Tuchel, on the other hand, said he expected Neymar to be available after returning from injury.
"If we have Neymar on the field, we have the self-confidence,'' Tuchel said. "It changes everything for us."