Haaland gives Man City an extra dimension and the striker reaped the rewards against Crystal Palace

Manchester City would have lost this game without Erling Haaland. In fact, City have lost this exact game several times without Erling Haaland in the past.

Crystal Palace had, at half-time, looked destined to extend their points tally at the Etihad over the past five seasons to 10. Two goals up and not conceding a shot on target, Patrick Vieira looked ready to repeat the same trick as last time. year.

But 39 minutes later, Pep Guardiola aggressively punched Haaland’s chest after allowing his striker a standing ovation.

Erling Haaland scored his first hat-trick for Man City to inspire a 4-2 win over Crystal Palace

He scored his hat trick and deserved the reception with the contest over. Three goals in 18 touches, for those who like to score.

A force of nature, Haaland can do that to anyone, as many others will find out. Match points will sink and he will alter plays bigger than that.

Yet that particular challenge is precisely why City paid £51m for him this summer. For clumsy afternoons when they’re average, against stubborn opponents who have their noses ahead.

“These games are the reason I’m here, to turn things around when there are tough times,” Haaland said.

In the past – and the 2-0 home loss to Palace last October is a perfect example of this – Guardiola could only watch his hips as they resorted to throwing crosses into the box, his usually hypnotic midfielders at short of ideas.

They had no one to consistently score scrappy goals in scrappy games.

The champions came from two goals down to win thanks to his superb second-half display

Haaland’s first, a header past Phil Foden’s cross into a good area for a goalscorer to attack, provided clear evidence that this is what City have been missing.

No one would have been there last season. Even if they were, neither would have checked their run to react to different phases of play the way Haaland did, designing their angles to generate power off the header.

Guardiola knows that, of course, hence why City have spent the last two years trying to sign Sergio Aguero’s replacement. Operating with false nines or midfielders up front was not a choice. “We are completely in love with him,” Guardiola said. “It’s not just the goals, it’s how happy he is. I see his behavior and his body language. He’s always right.

He appears a childlike wonder in Haaland’s celebrations, running to every corner of the pitch in mad excitement. That’s six Premier League goals in four games now, one every 54 minutes.

His third, bulldozing Joel Ward before deftly weaving around the corner in mid-air, was the Haaland brand.

Pep Guardiola’s side are second in the league behind Arsenal after three wins and a draw

The city, however, thinks there’s a lot more to come. They want him to be a little more involved in the game, even if it requires more team cohesion.

“We understand that people sometimes doubt him, but we know the player he is and where he comes from,” Rodri said. “He needs three touches to score a goal, he’s an incredible player.

“He still has to adapt. It’s hard in this position because we’re used to playing with a false nine that moves a lot and now we have him as a reference who doesn’t move too much.

“His natural talent makes the difference, but he has to do better to get involved in the game – when to come in, when to let go, when to go into space.

Targeting City's new £51million star has become the main focus for Man City playmakers

Targeting City’s new £51million star has become the main focus for Man City playmakers

“It’s normal, we’ve only been together for a month and hope he improves in the rest of the season.”

Rodri is now part of the club’s five-man squad and there will have been words at half-time, with City conceding more goals from set pieces in the first half than they have in the whole of last season.

It was also the fourth time in six games that they had lost two goals.

“We were lucky, but tomorrow we might be unlucky and lose points,” Guardiola said. But here’s another comeback from a team so often described as too mechanical, too boring to be truly admired.

He has already scored six Premier League goals, topping the division's goalscoring charts

He has already scored six Premier League goals, topping the division’s goalscoring charts

Honorable mentions go to lively substitutes Julian Alvarez and Bernardo Silva, whose deflected goal prompted the turnover. Shifted to the right, Silva’s jerky runs opened up a tiring palate. For City, a good job that Barcelona didn’t raise the money.

“What amazes me about Bernardo is that when the game goes wrong he takes a step forward, he loves playing in that situation,” Guardiola added. ‘He’s comfortable with it.

“Some players maybe step back and he takes a step forward. That’s why he’s irreplaceable in many ways for us.

Haaland gives Man City an extra dimension and the striker reaped the rewards against Crystal Palace

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