'Fantastic' Rudiger keeps Haaland in check at the Bernabeu

AP , Wednesday 10 May 2023

In one of the VIP boxes at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Erling Haaland’s father traded insults with Real Madrid fans and had to be escorted away by security.

Haaland and Rudiger
Portuguese referee Artur Dias watches as Manchester City s Norwegian striker Erling Haaland (C) vies with Real Madrid s German defender Antonio Rudiger during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 9, 2023. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)


In one of the VIP boxes at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Erling Haaland’s father traded insults with Real Madrid fans and had to be escorted away by security.

Down on the field, his son was manhandled by Madrid defenders and couldn’t make much of an impact on the game.

It was a frustrating night for the Haalands in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between Manchester City and Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

Haaland’s father, former player Alf-Inge, was seen making gestures and arguing with fans from his box at the Bernabeu, prompting security guards to relocate him to stop the situation from escalating.

His son, meanwhile, produced a quiet performance, losing most of his battles against Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger and failing to meet the expectations surrounding the star striker, who is the Champions League’s leading scorer this season.

Haaland came into the match having scored 12 of City’s 26 goals in the tournament, five short of Cristiano Ronaldo’s single-season record of 17 for Madrid in 2013-14. Haaland also is the Premier League's leading scorer with a record 35 goals, and has 51 in total in all competitions.

But Madrid’s defense made sure he wasn't a factor in Tuesday’s game in the Spanish capital, when he had few touches and only two attempts on target — a weak shot and header in the first half that caused little trouble for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Haaland's only attempt in the second half didn't even find the target — a shot blocked by defender David Alaba inside the area.

“The pockets and distances between the central defender and fullbacks was occupied," City coach Pep Guardiola said. “It was not easy for Erling.”

Rudiger was in charge of shadowing the Norway striker, and the German defender was in control most of the time. He marked Haaland closely from the start, at times wrapping his arms around the City player to keep him from gaining an edge, and rarely gave him space to create opportunities.

Whenever the ball went toward Haaland, there was always someone else close by and ready to double-team him, either Alaba, Eduardo Camavinga, Dani Carvajal or one of the midfielders.

“Everyone did a fantastic job. We did brilliantly from a defensive perspective and they didn’t create many chances at all,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “The team was very committed. Rudiger put in a fantastic performance.”

Rudiger replaced regular starter Eder Militao, who was suspended, though Ancelotti may now stick with him for next week's second leg in Manchester.

“Rudiger negates Haaland,” said a headline in the Spanish sports daily As.

City scored with a long-range strike by Kevin De Bruyne in the second half after Vinicius Junior had put the hosts ahead with another shot from outside the area before halftime.

Haaland had not yet joined City when it lost 6-5 on aggregate to Madrid in last year’s semifinals. The Spanish powerhouse went on to win a record-extending 14th European Cup title.

City played in its first Champions League final two seasons ago, losing to Chelsea.

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