Manchester City secured Champions League glory and a historic treble despite star striker Erling Haaland struggling to hit top form in a nervy victory over Inter
Before the final he said he felt the pressure of helping to finally deliver the Champions League for Manchester City.
But, in the end, Pep Guardiola’s side did not need to rely on leading scorer Erling Haaland to plunder the goal that finally saw them crowned European champions.Haaland has been remorseless this season, plundering 52 goals in a record-breaking debut season at City, which is why Inter Milan devised a plan to keep him quiet.
Inter boss Simone Inzaghi declared on the eve of the game that he and his coaching staff had come up with a strategy to nullify the threat of Haaland. At half time, their plan was succeeding.Whenever the ball came towards Haaland, Inter had one, sometimes two, men on him, denying the Norwegian the space and time to threaten their goal, as he has done to so many teams this season.
Only once did Haaland breach Inter’s disciplined and diligent defence, in the 27th minute, when he was put through by Kevin De Bruyne, whose night would end prematurely nine minutes later through injury.
De Bruyne’s pass was a touch heavier than it should have been, forcing Haalad wider than he would have liked, meaning the forward was unable to strike his angled effort as cleanly and with as much power as he wanted, although he managed to get it on target, Andre Onana palming the shot away.
Haaland had an earlier sight of the Inter goal, after just three minutes, De Bruyne again the provider, but the forward was ruled offside after lifting his effort over the bar. Those two chances aside, it was an uncharacteristically quiet first-half from City’s prolific front man.In the first 45 minutes, Haaland had just nine touches, evidence of his peripheral role and the effective job carried out by Inter in suppressing his threat.
For all his goals this season, Haaland went into the final with one in his last seven games, but this was a night when City’s record-breaking No.9 did not need to find the back of the net.
Given his heroics this season, which included 12 goals in as many Champions League games, it was perhaps expecting too much for Haaland to be City’s match-winner once again.But even though he did not get on the scoresheet, Haaland continued to graft, running the channels, pulling defenders out of position to create space for others to put Inter’s defenders under pressure.
He did just that with 13 minutes left, pulling away from his marker to open up space for Phil Foden, allowing him to surge into the area, before he shot tamely at Onana.
It mattered not, Rodri’s clinical 68th minute strike sealing the win that saw City finally conquer Europe and clinch an historic treble.