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Champions League

‘If someone were to take the ball he would punch’ – Pep Guardiola impressed by Erling Haaland’s hunger


Pep Guardiola was impressed by Erling Haaland’s hunger to take Manchester City’s penalty during the 2-0 win over West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday, joking that the 22-year-old could have “punched” one of his team-mates if they attempted to take the ball from him.

The Norway international hit the ground running on his league debut, scoring both goals as City cruised past David Moyes’ side and Guardiola liked the fact Haaland immediately grabbed the ball when the referee pointed to the spot after he was brought down by goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

“Of course, Erling scored the first two goal. It was important for them, for him, of course, for us,” Guardiola told reporters.

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“And, yes, it’s a good threat, another weapon that we have now. But, at the same time, he is not going to solve all our problems. He’s going to add something we want to do as a team.

“The way he took the ball to take a penalty, I said, ‘oh, I like it.’ So, he went direct and I think if someone go to take this ball he will punch in the faces of his [team] mates. I’m pretty sure of that.

“And that is a good sign. Because, it’s about, you have to be self-confident and ambition and good mentality and that showed me, I like it. And of course, he scored it.”

Such a dominant performance on his first league game is an ominous sign for the rest of the league and Sky Sports’ Gary Neville lavished praise on the Norway international.

“There are few players you see that have absolutely everything,” Neville said afterwards.
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“The physicality, the strength, the power, the finishing, the understanding, the timing – they are unique.

“You can play against a Zinedine Zidane or a Ronaldo when we were playing and think ‘there is nothing I can do here’ – and there will be defenders in the Premier League who won’t make mistakes and be helpless.

“He’s too strong, too quick. It’s almost an unfair competition.”

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