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Haaland: The love affair begins in Dortmund

Michael Da Silva in Dortmund
January 24, 2020

Erling Haaland came off the bench to score twice on a home debut to remember, making it five goals in two games for the wunderkind. DW’s Michael Da Silva was in Dortmund to witness the birth of a new hero.

Fußball Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund - 1. FC Köln Erling Haaland
Image: imago images/U. Kraft

Erling Haaland has arrived in Dortmund after scoring two goals in front of the Südtribune, the second an astonishing finish from a seemingly impossible angle. All in front of his adoring new fans, whose lust for the Norwegian after his hat-trick in Augsburg has already advanced into a love affair.

The Borussia Dortmund club shop manager may have to consider restocking the letters and numbers that make up ‘Haaland 17’. In the hours before kick-off against the visiting Cologne, home fans filed in and out of FanWelt to get their replica shirts - there can be no doubt that there is a new idol in this corner of Germany.

Those fans had to wait some time to see the 19-year-old take to his new stage. Dortmund coach Lucien Favre had warned pre-match that, given the Austrian league’s extended winter break, his latest acquisition needed some time to reach full sharpness.

"I said it a few times, but he hadn't trained much since December 10, so almost the whole month,” said Favre. “He took part in some of our training camps, but not all of it. That's why we've got to be careful with him so it's also understandable that he's still not in the starting line-up." 

God help the rest of the Bundesliga if he’s not even at peak fitness. Haaland is an imposing, hulking center forward and by his sheer physical frame alone puts the fear into opposing defenders in a way usually reserved only for elite strikers.

His 28 goals for RB Salzburg this season may mostly have been in the Austrian Bundesliga, but this is a player with pedigree. He scored in all but one of the Champions League games he has played in this season, including four against Napoli and Liverpool. Haaland may be relatively unproven given his age, but he is already putting up stats usually reserved for the best in the business. His potential, if that’s how it must still be classified, is frightening.

Dortmund were already 3-1 up thanks to goals from Raphael Guerreiro, Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho by the time Haaland was eventually introduced in the 65th minute. It felt like Favre was deliberately holding Haaland back, keeping the beast in his cage until he was foaming at the mouth. If so, the tactic worked a treat.

Fußball Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund - 1. FC Köln
Borussia Dortmund breezed past Cologne as Erling Haaland (4th from r.) added to his hat-trick against Augsburg with a brace on Friday night.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Thissen

You have to go back a long way to think of a Dortmund signing that has generated such a buzz and Signal Iduna Park rose to its feet to greet its new hero when he replaced Thorgan Hazard. Haaland’s first involvement was to go clean through barely two minutes after coming on. Time seemed to stand still as the Norwegian waited to pull the trigger, only to be denied at the last.

Haaland raised the roof in the 76th minute, tapping in from close range and raising both arms in front of the Südtribune. Despite the sense of inevitability about it, there was pure jubilation in the terraces.

A tap-in on his home debut wasn’t enough though. What followed was an exceptional finish by a player whose confidence is overflowing. Forced to the byline having taken the ball past Timo Horn, a cross seemed to be the only plausible option. Haaland had other ideas, shifting the ball onto his left foot and threading the eye of a needle from an angle that didn’t seem on. The ball went in - of course it did - and was a remarkable goal and a fitting way for this outrageous talent to announce himself.

"The way he’s been with us in training for the first few weeks, he’s very calm, very relaxed and has just been working hard on his fitness given he hadn’t been able to train or play much before he joined us,” Marco Reus told DAZN after the game. “It’s wonderful for him, two games, five goals. There are certainly worse introductions, especially here on home soil."

Haaland is yet to start a game for Dortmund but already has five goals in 56 minutes of Bundesliga football, has scored five goals from six shots, and is the first Bundesliga player ever to score five goals in his first two games. Just think what he might do if Lucien Favre starts him.