Haaland scores hat-trick as Manchester City hit Nottingham Forest for six | Premier League


Who will bet against Erling Haaland obliterating Sergio Agüero’s club record 260 strikes for Manchester City if this ruthless goal-assassin continues at the current rate? Here was the centre-forward’s second hat-trick in five days to register nine finishes in five matches: one more than the brilliant Argentinian returned in the same number during his start in City livery. Agüero took 390 appearances to reach his final tally and Haaland could eclipse this breath-taking ratio too.

If star billing rightly goes to the 14th three-goal haul of the centre-forward’s career, just as impressive were his lightning runs and gut-busting desire to press when required.

In the latest complete team display of the Pep Guardiola era, Haaland offered further evidence he is adding a different, frightening dimension to City. Nottingham Forest, fielding seven of Steve Cooper’s plethora of new additions, ended humbled by the lesson their hosts gave.

Bernardo Silva’s mazy run gave Scott McKenna a first test: the No 26, bamboozled momentarily, flipped the ball out for a corner. This was zipped to Julian Álvarez, making his full debut, and Forest scrambled it away for a second dead ball from the same right quadrant. This time Gündogan’s delivery took a flick off Rodri and Alvarez, again, was denied.

Here was a welcome back to City for a league game after a two-decade cessation, the blue wave continuing via Phil Foden’s cute chip that had Silva rushing to collect before being thwarted.

Forest were under siege and, now, were sucker-punched. A fourth Gündogan corner – from the left – was tapped short to Foden who, unmarked, dropped a deft lob into the area.

Ryan Yates, bafflingly, let this bounce, Dean Henderson was a statue on his line, Joe Worrall could not hold off Erling Haaland and the No 9 plundered a seventh strike of his first Premier League campaign.

This was 13 minutes in and there would be more. Forest’s initial riposte was to maraud downfield, Morgan Gibbs-White and Lewis O’Brien involved in a move that had Renan Llodi, donning Forest colours for the first time, missing a point-blank header. City are tough enough without the type of error Henderson next committed to hand them a second. The No 1 punted a regulation clearance straight to Silva who fed Álvarez who recycled the ball to Gündogan who found Haaland.

A dizzying sequence now had Foden involved and when he crossed back in there was the Norwegian to double the lead. All of this without City’s pre-eminent talent, Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgian a spectator from the bench.

What he saw was a team in total control who revelled in a game of supreme keep-ball that toyed with their guests and carried the menace of a third. It arrived via Haaland whose second successive hat-trick came courtesy of a John Stones leap that nodded the ball on to his head: at close range this lethal 22-year-old was never going to miss.

The period closed with Álvarez hitting a low shot off Henderson’s right post before Forest scuttled off, dazed and confused. Steve Cooper’s side were on their way to a serious beating.

The sight of Haaland galloping into channels to collect possession and pull defenders around was a red flag th at he and City desired more. So, they struck a fourth.

Again Forest were ponderous: Silva danced inside and swept a ball across to João Cancelo who had an age to set himself, then rifle into the top corner from 20 yards. A further gauge beyond the scoreline of how City were coasting was Guardiola’s move to replace Foden and Rodri with Riyad Mahrez and Cole Palmer inside 10 minutes of the second half.

The latter soon drew applause from his manager for a show of strength by the technical area, moments later popping a cross in that demanded a finish. As the hour passed City’s possession percentage stood at 77: it felt closer to 100 due to the relentless battering they gave their bewildered opponents as Álvarez, a whir of energy throughout, made it 5-0 with a pure swing of his right boot that went through the hapless Henderson.

When Haaland wandered off on 68 minutes a raucous roar was his reward. To see the 6ft 3in predator retreating might have cheered Forest a little except De Bruyne was his replacement.

For the closing phase, Sergio Gómez, 21, and the 17-year-old Rico Lewis were each given a second City appearance. There was zero let up: Álvarez grabbed a second with minutes left.

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