Pep Guardiola hailed Erling Haaland’s winner against ex-club Borussia Dortmund as a cross between Johan Cruyff and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Norwegian striker earned Manchester City a 2-1 win against his former club with an acrobatic finish in the 84th minute – his 13th goal in just eight games since his summer move to the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola said the goal evoked memories of Cruyff and Ibrahimovic – whom the City manager appeared to sarcastically refer to as “best friend” after a conflict between the pair during their time together at Barcelona – and admitted it had covered up a largely under-performing performance of his team.
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“Perhaps the people who know me know the influence Johan Cruyff had on my life as a person, as a mentor and years ago he scored an incredible goal in Camp Nou for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid,” said Guardiola.
“When Erling scored, I thought they were quite similar. I remember my good friend Ibrahimovic, who has the ability to put the leg on the roof, and Erling is quite similar in that regard.
“I think it’s his nature, he’s elastic, he’s flexible and then he has the ability to make contact and put the ball in the net. I think his mom and dad give him that flexibility.”
City failed to get a shot on goal in the first half and fell behind shortly after the break due to a header from Jude Bellingham.
John Stones, playing as a right-back, equalized after 80 minutes with an improbable 20-yard rocket and Guardiola suggested afterwards that he was unhappy with large parts of his team’s performance.
“We weren’t at the right pace,” added Guardiola. “John Stones goal. In the first half John Stones didn’t shoot, but at that moment we were in the right rhythm.
“John was in the right rhythm and scored an exceptional goal. We can’t make the 60 or 65 minutes we play, we are a different team. It’s not about winning or losing, you have to perform well every day. Lesson.”
Goalscorer Bellingham, meanwhile, was one of Dortmund’s standout performers, with the 19-year-old midfielder being labeled “an exceptional player” by Guardiola after the game.
“I think we were brilliant for most of the game,” Bellingham said. “We gave them little to work with. Their really good players played well, but they didn’t necessarily kill us in dangerous areas.
“I think we had the advantage there, and of course great teams, you give them a yard and they can deliver like that, they can hurt you and that’s what they did tonight.”
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