Erling Haaland scored twice as holders Manchester City cruised into the last 16 of the Champions League with two group games remaining after a 3-0 victory over Swiss side Young Boys yesterday.
Pep Guardiola’s side maintained their 100% record and led Group G with 12 points from four games. Young Boys, who were reduced to 10 men when Sandro Lauper was shown a red card in the 53rd minute, are fourth in the group with one point.
“Still the job is not done because we have to finish first because it’s better in the last-16 to have the weapon of the second game at home,” Guardiola said.
“But the first step to qualify is done, (and) we scored two fantastic goals.”
Haaland now has 39 Champions League goals from 34 appearances and is on course to smash the record for fewest appearances to reach 40 goals, which is 45 games by Ruud van Nistelrooy.
The 23-year-old injured his ankle in Saturday’s 6-1 trouncing of Bournemouth in the Premier League, raising questions about whether he would even play yesterday.
The one negative on the night was the loss of John Stones, who recently returned from a hip injury but was replaced at halftime after suffering what Guardiola said was a muscle issue.
“He will be awhile out, it’s a pity, it’s bad news for us,” Guardiola said.
City applied pressure from kickoff and Haaland broke the deadlock from a penalty in the 23rd minute after Lauper’s tackle on Matheus Nunes in the box. The Norwegian striker pumped a fist in the air after sending goalkeeper Anthony Racioppi the wrong way.
Phil Foden doubled City’s lead seconds before halftime when Jack Grealish spotted him out wide. The England midfielder cut into the box and beat Racioppi with a low shot.
Haaland’s second goal – and fourth in two games against Young Boys – was a beautiful left-footed rocket from 20 yards out in the 51st minute.
Haaland, who had traded shirts with Young Boys captain Mohamed Ali Camara as they walked off the field at halftime, was substituted to a standing ovation from the home crowd a few minutes after his goal.
The score could have been more lopsided as City had numerous near misses including Rico Lewis’s attempt that looked destined for the net before it was cleared off the line by Loris Benito.
Belgian forward Jeremy Doku sent in a pinpoint cross after coming on late in the game, but Nunes could not finish.
“We knew it’s very difficult here, to get a point or a win, you need to have the kind of a game, the perfect game in every phase of the game,” Young Boys manager Raphael Wicky said.
City are unbeaten in their last 17 Champions League games since losing 3-1 away to Real Madrid in the semi-finals in May 2022.
“To qualify with two games to spare, that is what we wanted to do,” Grealish told TNT Sports.
“He (Guardiola) gives us so much. In my opinion, he is the best manager in the world. He has shown that over the years. But you can have the best manager in the world, you also need the team. And that is what we have, a brilliant team on the pitch but also off the pitch we have a brilliant team that is so close. We love being with each other every day and playing with each other.”
City host RB Leipzig on November 28 and then cap the group stage with a visit to Red Star Belgrade on December 13.