RB Leipzig crashed out of the Champions League in the second leg of the round of 16 against Manchester City. Before kick-off, City put on an opulent laser show with booming bass in the darkened stadium, which seemed a bit too thick for the occasion – especially in the sleet of northern England.
But the hosts’ team picked up on that and gave the fans a spectacle right from the start that Leipzig never had anything to oppose. After the first leg ended 1-1, it was 7-0 for City. That was not to be expected in the clarity.
Leipzig also had to do without a few injuries in Manchester. Top scorer Christopher Nkunku (torn muscle fiber in his left thigh) and central midfielder Xaver Schlager (ruptured syndesmosis ligament in his right ankle) have both been injured since losing to Dortmund in early March. Coach Marco Rose put his faith in the core of the team against City, which had defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0 last weekend.
This time, however, Kevin Kampl started in central midfield after recovering from the flu – that’s actually how the defense was supposed to be strengthened –; Timo Werner moved from the left wing to replace André Silva in the center of the attack. In defense, Rose stayed with the proven back four around captain Willi Orban and the first-leg goalscorer Josko Gvardiol.
“Lots of world class going around”
Rose didn’t want to tailor his line-up specifically to City’s storm star Erling Haaland, as he said at the press conference before the game. He called the Norwegian one of the best nines in the world and quoted his legendary goal tally in the Premier League by heart, but City also has “a lot of world class running around there”. But it was to be Haaland of all people who inflicted a brutal defeat on Leipzig in every respect.
After a little more than 20 minutes of play, the VAR came into action after an unintentional handball by Benjamin Henrichs. The referee awarded a penalty – a penalty that you can give, but certainly don’t have to. Haaland stepped up and shot flat to the bottom right. Goalkeeper Janis Blaswich had guessed the corner, but didn’t get it. After that it took less than two minutes to make it 2-0.
After a tee shot by Blaswich, the ball came back immediately, Kevin De Bruyne’s long-range shot rebounded off the crossbar and Haaland shot with his head. And when Rúben Dias pressed a header against the post seconds before the break after a corner, Haaland completed his flawless hat-trick almost standing on the line.
After all, the Leipzig block was well filled despite the strikes at some German airports, and the contingent of 3,000 tickets had been sold out since January. More than two hours before kick-off, the entourage of Leipzig fans was already drumming and singing through the eastern district of Ancoats in the direction of the stadium.
After the draw in the first leg, it all depended on the outcome of the second leg. However, two fellow travelers were not overly optimistic when chatting in front of the stadium. When asked about his expectations, one of the two said: “I didn’t get a pack.” His fears were to come true.
Because City continued where they left off before the break. As soon as the second half had started, Ilkay Gündogan pushed a low left-footed shot just inside the penalty area into the top corner. Even before an hour of play was reached, it was 5-0 and 6-0 – out of the crowd it was Haaland again both times, who now did everything and felt every rebound fell in front of his feet with centimeter precision.
His otherwise energetic goal celebration turned into an almost apologetic, if still boyish, shrug when he scored his fifth goal of the evening. He has equaled the record of Lionel Messi and Luiz Adriano with five goals in a Champions League game. After a little over an hour, coach Pep Guardiola finally replaced him – and Haaland left the field to a standing ovation.
Shortly before the end, De Bruyne scored the goal to make it 7-0 with a well-aimed right-footed shot. At the beginning of the last Champions League season, Leipzig had to concede six goals as a guest at Manchester City, but also scored three goals themselves at the time. This time things got even worse for the Saxons.
So nothing came of the second entry into the quarter-finals in the young history of the club. In order to do that, Rose had wished for the best game of the season in the run-up to this evening: “We know what’s coming.” It wasn’t his team that delivered it, but the star of this football show with lasers and basses : Erling Haaland.