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Homegrown Foden steals much-hyped Haaland's thunder

China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-08 09:43
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Manchester City's Phil Foden attempts to skip past the challenges of Borussia Dortmund's Matts Hummels and Manuel Akanji during Tuesday's UEFA Champions League quarterfinal. REUTERS

MANCHESTER, England-Still opponents rather than teammates, Phil Foden showed Erling Haaland there's already a 20-year-old excelling at Manchester City.

Foden netted City's 90th-minute winner to clinch a 2-1 victory over Haaland's Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday-and even before that it was the local lad repeatedly flaunting his skills on the ball to bamboozle the visitor.

"They are a young team full of energy and they counterattack really quick," said England international Foden, a product of City's academy. "I was frustrated all night. I'd many chances to score and I kept going and in the end one paid off."

Haaland, who is being touted as a potential replacement for Sergio Aguero at City next season, didn't have the best of auditions to live up to a valuation far exceeding $100 million. European soccer's hottest young talent struggled to make an impact, beyond setting up an equalizer on the turn for captain Marco Reus to cancel out Kevin De Bruyne's first-half strike.

And it was Foden who played an integral part in that City opener that followed Emre Can conceding possession and De Bruyne leading the breakaway. Foden squared to Riyad Mahrez, who kept the ball in play at the far post before pulling it back for De Bruyne to clip into the net in the 19th minute.

And with City entering the 90th minute facing going to Germany next week locked at 1-1, De Bruyne's vision picked apart the Dortmund defense again.

"I try to look up before I get the ball so I try to get a picture of what is happening," the Belgian midfielder said. "I could see Phil and Gundo (Ilkay Gundogan) running to the post and tried to chip it."

It succeeded, as De Bruyne sent a perfectly weighted ball floating over the Dortmund defense. Gundogan brought down the cross at the far post and laid off for Foden to sweep into the net.

"The second goal right at the end was unnecessary, because we lost concentration for two seconds," Reus said. "We need to be stopping the cross there."

While Foden was the match-winner, Haaland still took the opportunity to chat with his young counterpart with mouths covered on the freezing Etihad pitch. And the Norwegian had one final duty before heading into the dressing room, improbably being asked by one of referee Ovidiu Haegan's assistants, Octavian Sovre, to sign red and yellow cards.

"Maybe he's a fan of Haaland," City manager Pep Guardiola quipped.

Dortmund is insistent that Haaland won't be linking up next season with City-or any other team. "He's our player and we are very proud he's part of our team," Dortmund head coach Edin Terzic said.

As for Haegan, the referee rightly overturned a penalty originally awarded against Can for fouling City midfielder Rodri in the first half before enraging Dortmund by denying Jude Bellingham an equalizer before halftime.

Ederson was trying to control a back pass on the edge of the penalty area but gave the ball away and Bellingham nipped in to score. But Bellingham was penalized for fouling Ederson despite being kicked first and the whistle had already gone before the 17-year-old Englishman fired home.

While Dortmund protested the decision on the pitch, City midfielder Fernandinho turned from his seat in the stands toward the media sitting behind him to argue the opposite. "It's a foul," he said in the stadium that remains without fans during the pandemic.

It contributed to Dortmund heading into the second leg trailing, albeit with a valuable away goal secured by Reus netting in the Champions League for the first time since October 2018.

"We didn't trust ourselves to go forward so much in the first half," Reus said. "We set up well, but it's such a shame that we didn't get the reward for the fight and the energy that we showed on the pitch."

Winning the Champions League for the first time since 1997 might be the only way for Dortmund to return to the competition next term as it sits in fifth place in the Bundesliga-seven points from fourth.

"They are the best side in the world at the moment," Terzic said of City. "But we annoyed them a lot and we are still in the game."

City by contrast is running away with the English Premier League, building a 14-point lead in its quest for a third title in four seasons to dethrone struggling Liverpool. While City remains on track for a quadruple, Liverpool lost 3-1 at Real Madrid in the night's other first leg.

Agencies via Xinhua

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