Erling Haaland netted a brilliant bicycle kick as he scored a brace on his return to Manchester City’s starting line-up after injury in a 4-1 Premier League win at bottom side Southampton on Saturday to keep the pressure on leaders Arsenal.
The Norwegian took his tally of league goals to 30 for the season as City snuffed out any ideas Southampton may have had about pulling off an upset to aid their battle against relegation.
City remain second on 67 points, five behind Arsenal after 29 games of the 38-game season, with the Gunners set to take on Liverpool who City beat 4-1 last week. Southampton are bottom on 23 points, four behind Everton in 17th.
Southampton keeper Gavin Bazunu had to make an early save from Jack Grealish after a sweeping attack by the visitors, pushing away a stinging shot and steering the ball out of the path of the onrushing Haaland.
Kamaldeen Sulemana wasted a great early chance for Southampton after a powerful run with only Nathan Ake back to cover, but his touch let him down and City were able to avert the danger, and it was to prove costly as Haaland shook off the rust and opened the scoring.
After fluffing a couple of early touches, he found the net for the visitors in the final minute of the first half, meeting Kevin De Bruyne’s cross with a powerful close-range header that gave Southampton keeper Bazunu no chance.
Jack Grealish made it 2-0 in the 58th minute, sprinting onto another sublime pass from De Bruyne before firing a left-foot shot that Bazunu saved, only for the winger to slam home the rebound with his right to double City’s advantage.
Grealish turned provider 10 minutes later, racing away down the left before chipping a cross to Haaland, which the Norwegian acrobatically volleyed home, landing on the turf and sitting cross-legged with a broad smile on his face to celebrate.
He was replaced by Julian Alvarez and though Southampton pulled a goal back through substitute Sekou Mara in the 72nd minute, they conceded a penalty almost immediately and Alvarez restored City’s three-goal lead from the spot.
De Bruyne’s assist for Haaland’s first goal was his 100th in the Premier League, and the Belgian displayed his usual modesty before admitting that it was unlikely he would ever score a goal like Haaland’s bicycle kick.
“I am a creative player and try to create as much as possible … it is nice, maybe when I am done playing football it is something I will look back on,” he told the BBC.
“Haaland’s second goal, you will never see me do that! You would get me to Southampton hospital if I do that!” he added.