Erling Haaland “was born to score goals” and capped a golden week by completing a second-half hat-trick as Manchester City extended their 100% start to the Premier League season with a win over Fulham.
On Tuesday, Haaland was named PFA Player of the Year. On Thursday, he got a similar award from Uefa.
Man City’s assistant manager Juanma Lillo was effusive in his praise of the striker saying it is “no surprise” that he reaches high goal-scoring figures.
“He’s great at providing for other players, he gave one assist today, he has this importance to other players, it’s not just about scoring goals,” said Lillo.
“I’m more impressed by other figures as well, not just if he ends up scoring. I always looked at his intelligence as well as his goal-scoring.”
Here, he was back doing what he does best – putting the ball into the net, as he took his tally to six for the campaign.
Haaland had set up the opener for Julian Alvarez – and with the score at 2-1 going into the second half, the favour was returned, as the Argentine sent him charging into the box with a fine first-time pass for City’s third.
The Norwegian then kept his nerve to score City’s fourth from the penalty spot after Issa Diop had fouled Alvarez.
Haaland had already been named man of the match when he applied the superb first-time finish to Sergio Gomez’s cut-back to claim yet another match ball.
Fulham would argue the pivotal moment in the game came just before the break, after Tim Ream had equalised within a minute of Alvarez’s opener on the half hour.
Video assistant referee Tony Harrington ruled an offside Manuel Akanji was not interfering with play as Nathan Ake’s 10-yard header bounced past him, even though the Swiss made a play for the ball.
Fulham boss Marco Silva evidently thought otherwise and was booked as he led the protests.
The winning machine
Victory means City enter the first international break two points clear of their nearest challengers.
That will be a concern for them all because Pep Guardiola’s side have not won their opening four games since his first season in charge – meaning they didn’t manage it in any of their five title-winning campaigns under the illustrious former Barcelona coach, who is currently recovering from back surgery.
Asked whether he wants the job after winning twice in Guardiola’s absence, Lillo added: “I want Pep here, he was present today, always talking with us, he spoke to us before, during and after the game. I’m delighted the team has continued to win but we need him here and I miss him.
“He’s very reflective and he reacts to what happens. We comment on how the game is going, we debate the same way we would if he was here in person and look to find a way together.”
For half an hour in this game, they were off the pace.
Without the injured Jack Grealish, £55m new arrival Jeremy Doku was handed his debut. The Belgian produced an encouraging performance, including one excellent touchline burst that nearly set up Phil Foden.
But until Alvarez scored, City were below par and the way they let Ream run unchecked to the far post to equalise hinted at a lack of focus.
Ake’s goal changed the complexion of the entire contest, allowing Haaland to take centre stage as he has done so often.
“Erling is a strong character, there was no doubt in our mind he was going to take it [the penalty], he’s scored many goals from penalties, had we got another penalty in the previous game we’d have given it to him,” said Lillo.
Incredibly, the 23-year-old now has Premier League 51 goal involvements – 42 goals and nine assists – in just 39 appearances. It is the fastest anyone has achieved that, breaking Andy Cole’s record by four games.
With six goals in four league games, Haaland has matched his start to last season. Already City and their star striker have laid down a marker it will be difficult to match.
There will presumably come a point when Fulham boss Silva starts to bite his tongue over the perceived injustices being meted out to his side.
He has not arrived at that stage yet.
When VAR Harrington indicated to referee Michael Oliver that Ake’s header should stand, the Fulham manager erupted.
Bernd Leno raced from his goal to tell Oliver he had been impeded by Manuel Akanji, who made a play for the ball as Ake’s header went past him. Leno could hardly be claimed as a neutral witness but TV replays did indicate the German’s movement in making a save began after the ball went past Akanji.
Silva was still complaining to fourth official Michael Salisbury long after play restarted, which itself took an age as the players continued to argue around the centre circle.
Having now lost 15 successive games to this particular opponent, Fulham were not expected to claim victory.
However, their chances were hardly helped by the absence of star man Joao Palhinha, whose hoped for move to Bayern Munich fell through on Friday afternoon, even though he had travelled to Germany passed his medical, posed in a Bayern shirt and carried out in-house interviews.
Eighteen-year-old academy product Luke Harris will have learned from his extended appearance, although that came at the expense of an injury to captain Tom Cairney, which, all in all, contributed to a day Fulham would probably prefer to forget ever happened.