Two-goal Erling Haaland acclaimed by Leeds United fans and head coach Jesse Marsch

Champions Manchester City predictably proved too good for Leeds United as Premier League action returned to Elland Road – and it was their Leeds-born striker that just as predictably did much of the damage.
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Erling Haaland's first game at the ground of the team he has supported since his early upbringing in the city saw him score twice in a 3-1 win and he would have left with the match ball and another three goals had it not been for the heroics of goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

The rising superstar of world football was given the rare honour of being applauded off by Leeds fans at the end after another display that showed what a talent he is and he was all smiles despite missing out on his hat-trick.

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His muted celebrations after scoring were not lost on home fans and he also earned plaudits from United boss Jesse Marsch who coached him previously at Salzburg.

Manchester City celebrate one of Erling Haaland's two goals against Leeds United.Manchester City celebrate one of Erling Haaland's two goals against Leeds United.
Manchester City celebrate one of Erling Haaland's two goals against Leeds United.

“Haaland has an uncanny ability to know where to be to score goals and a hunger like I have never seen before.

"It is infectious in the team. It is a desire that spreads through the team.

“I don’t know whether Man City are my favourites for the league but Haaland is one of my favourite players to watch."

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On his team's performance against City, Marsch explained: "I think in the first half we were stable defensively and we won a lot of balls but because we were a little nervy we were so quick to just give it away.

Joe Gelhardt cannot believe his luck as he goes close to scoring for Leeds United against Manchester City.Joe Gelhardt cannot believe his luck as he goes close to scoring for Leeds United against Manchester City.
Joe Gelhardt cannot believe his luck as he goes close to scoring for Leeds United against Manchester City.

"That was the message and was going to be the message at half-time. They were having a hard time breaking us down, but we can stay on the ball. I showed a few scenes where we won balls and they weren't pressuring us and we had more time than we thought.

"Then obviously the second goal is a tough mistake and that makes the challenge that much harder.

"However, then you saw us coming into the game more, this is part of being brave. At 2-0, 3-0 you know we have nothing to lose, but I really want to see us playing like that from the beginning, making dynamic movements, connections on the ball.

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"Obviously there's a quality issue in the match, they're very good, they have very good players, it ended up being a war of attrition."

Marsch added: “We have work to do, we need to get a couple of guys healthy but I want to get our heads down to get better and not be in a relegation battle. We need to work hard.”

Leeds could have been behind in the very first minute when Haaland got in behind the home defence onto a long ball by Nathan Ake. His lob looked to be going goalwards only for Meslier to get fingertips to the ball which was then cleared by Pascal Struijk.

Kevin De Bruyne gave further notice of City's threat with a curling shot that went just wide and Ilkay Gundogan sent a shot wide.

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But the visitors appeared to be getting frustrated by the Whites' defensive shape in a spell when little happened.

It was the calm before the storm, though, with Haaland again only denied by Meslier as he got in behind Liam Cooper and Jack Grealish sending a volley over from six yards out.

Willy Gnonto managed Leeds' only effort of the first half with a shot that went well over, but City pressed more and more towards the end of the half.

Grealish shot well over after being found in space in the box from a clever free-kick, Riyad Mahrez could not quite connect with a Grealish ball in then Grealish missed a real sitter in firing over with the goal gaping.

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Relief was only temporary for the hosts as they were caught on a break. Clever play by Gundogan freed De Bruyne down the left and his ball across was met by Rodri who slipped in Mahrez.

Although Mahrez's shot was well saved low down by Meslier the ball fell kindly for Rodri to follow up by putting the ball into the net in the final action of the half.

Six minutes into the second half it was suddenly 2-0 as Cooper's underhit pass to Robin Koch was pounced on by Grealish who made ground before setting up Haaland for an easy tap-in.

Leeds' response was good. Gnonto showed nice feet in the box only to have his shot blocked then Brenden Aaronson found space on the edge of the box, but shot over.

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City made it three from their next attack with Haaland again netting after playing a one-two with Grealish.

It could have been the cue for a landslide, but the Whites restored some pride with a battling effort in the remainder of the game.

They pulled a goal back when Struijk headed home a Greenwood corner and now there was life in the game again.

Haaland looked likely to complete his hat-trick when sent clean through, but once more Meslier came out on top in a one-on-one.

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Moments later it was almost 3-2 as Joe Gelhardt's flick sent the ball agonisingly inches wide after he met Greenwood's low cross following good play initially by Aaronson.

Greenwood sent a free-kick narrowly over three minutes later, but United's comeback did not bring them any more meaningful efforts and in truth they were well beaten on the night, although not disgraced.

(Struijk 73)

(Rodri 45+2, Haaland 51, 65)

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 36,889

Leeds: Meslier; Kristensen (Ayling 66), Koch, Cooper (Llorente 72), Struijk; Forshaw (Klich 66), Roca; Greenwood, Aaronson (Gyabi 83), Gnonto; Rodrigo (Gelhardt 72).

City: Ederson; Stones, Akanji, Ake; Lewis (Cancelo 69), Rodri; Mahrez (Palmer 88), Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish (Foden 72); Haaland.

Referee: Staurt Attwell