The likes of Neymar and Mbappe were put in the shade by the Norwegian sense, who broke another album with his double BVB’s 2-1 triumph over PSG.
If anyone needed convincing concerning the abilities of Erling Haaland, the efforts of Tuesday evening must function to silence any lingering doubts.
Borussia Dortmund’s Norwegian prodigy — ably assisted by Jadon Sancho’s impossibly rapid feet — place Paris Saint-Germain into the sword in a thrilling 2-1 victory in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie at Signal Iduna Park and, in the process, even set the visitors’ leading duo of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in the colour.
Borussia Dortmund’s five Bundesliga clashes since coming out of the winter break have afforded no less than 30 goals — a figure equal to that submitted by PSG within their corresponding six Ligue 1 outings up to now in 2020. No matter the outcome on Tuesday, the wise money was on a busy day for Roman Burkl and Keylor Navas within their various nets.
It was the hosts, however, that came out of the blocks fastest. Together with the imperious Sancho popping up throughout the field to pose a continuous threat to the PSG backline, it was Thomas Tuchel’s men could do to sit back, brace themselves against the storm and hope Navas proved up to the job.
Finally the Costa Rica No. 1 — a three-time winner of this Champions League trophy so dearly coveted in Paris — has been forced to make just one save in the opening 45 minutes, a fine stop from Sancho when the teenaged livewire fired in from the edge of the region.
That Navas wasn’t pressured into action more often owed more to a certain indecision from BVB young forwards in the last third, creating a series of wrong turns when the internet opened up, than from any specific merit shown by PSG.
At the opposite end, Dortmund’s notoriously leaky defence was made to seem solid by their rivals’ sporadic, ineffectual incursions.
Neymar was drawn again and again into a battle he couldn’t win, squaring up against the complete BVB backline against hopeless odds, while Mbappe cut a forlorn figure far in the all-action goal scorer who has taken the soccer world by storm.
The second half started in much the same vein and, after going close with a few delightful pre-rehearsed set-piece routines which were just missing a stray boot to turn the ball home, the question appeared to be not if the Germans would start the scoring but when.
The solution would come 20 minutes in the end, from an inevitable source.
Lucien Favre’s decision to double down and throw a third teenage striker on the pitch in the form of Giovanni Reyna — moreover in a spell where PSG had found themselves in front paid immediate dividends when Dortmund eventually broke the visitors’ resolve. Haaland found himself in the ideal spot to poke home the rebound from Raphael Guerreiro’s deflected effort.
Neymar and PSG weren’t quite finished. A dazzling streak from Mbappe — much-improved in the first half — abandoned the Brazilian using a simple finish beneath the posts to level the score.
However, Tuchel’s charges hardly had time to catch their breath before the irrepressible Haaland was observing again, thumping home past Navas.
Not only did the Norwegian prodigy provide BVB a possibly priceless advantage on the night, but he also drew level with Robert Lewandowski as the Champions League’s top scorer in 2019-20, with an incredible 10 goals in seven outings up to now, thus becoming the fastest man ever to reach double figures in the contest.
In Dortmund colors, overall, he boasts 11 in only four starts — not a bad tally for a child who on Tuesday marked the month’s anniversary of his debut in Germany.
With an entirely objective eye, one could argue that Haaland fell shy of his best against PSG: occasionally he isolated himself from his team-mates and kept his head down when a slightly cooler head would have looked for aid.
However, his ability in front of goal in only 19 is nothing short of astonishing and, nearly single-handed, he’s turning around a Dortmund year that seemed in danger of petering out into mediocrity as recently as one month ago.
Dortmund might have hoped for a slightly wider margin given that the events of Tuesday, but a 2-1 lead to take to Paris is nevertheless a nice outcome.
And one thing is for sure: with Haaland on the prowl, it’s not easy to see BVB failing to cancel out that away goal in what’s regarded as a stunning second leg.