While Real Madrid focused on Erling Haaland it allowed Manchester City to strike

During the build-up to Manchester City’s 3-all draw with Real Madrid, a major focus of the Spanish giants defence was to keep Erling Haaland quiet. But Haaland’s presence and the Madrid’s defence focus on the Norwegian striker allowed Haaland’s teammates space to thrive.

Comments made pre-game by Real Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger highlighted his anticipation of his match up with City’s number 9. While Rudiger and the Real Madrid defence kept Haaland relatively quiet, their focus on City’s star striker allowed Haaland’s teammates to take full advantage.

Throughout last night’s game, Haaland was shadowed either by Rudiger or Aurélien Tchouamémi. Such is the threat posed by City’s goal scoring machine he demands City’s opponents full attention. With his ability to get in behind coupled with his lethal finishing means teams must focus on keeping Haaland out of the game.

But the mere presence of Erling Haaland opens up space for his teammates to thrive. With every run, Haaland makes he pulls opposition defenders out of position. This was evident last night at the Bernabeu. Rudiger and Tchouamémi did a superb job to keep Haaland largely on the periphery of last night’s game. But their focus on Haaland did come at the detriment of the La Liga leaders, especially during the second half of last night’s game.

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Two superb second half strikes from Phil Foden and Josko Gvardiol turned last night’s game and possibly the tie in City’s favour. But on closer inspection outside of the quality of both strikes, Haaland’s mere presence distracts the Madrid defence. They sat deep on both goals to deny space in behind for Haaland, which allowed Foden and Gvardiol to take full advantage.

It is an often overlooked feature of Haaland’s game that his influence on a game isn’t merely measured in goals, touches, or other statistical metrics. Just being on the pitch with his movement creates headaches for City’s opponents. That trait stood out in the second half of last night’s epic match.

Erling Haaland wasn’t at his best last night at the Bernabeu. He will be hoping to have more of an influence at the Etihad next week. But if his presence on the pitch helps his teammates thrive like last night and he occupies the Real Madrid defence, then he will again be a key contributor for Manchester City.

Tags Antonio Rudiger Aurélian Tchouamémi Bernabeu Erling Haaland Josko Gvardiol Manchester City Phil Foden Real Madrid UEFA Champions League