On a Wednesday evening at the Etihad, Manchester City and Erling Braut Haaland dominated visiting Nottingham Forest 6-0. The hosts were not gracious with their visitors, a team making its first appearance at the Etihad since defeating City 0-3 in a 2009 FA Cup tie. Instead, they took the Trees apart with clinical precision, and Haaland was the scalpel.
The City attack took control of this game from the whistle and never let it go. The ball was seemingly never out of the Forest end and the Sky Blues were typically tenacious in regaining lost possessions. City finished the match with 75 %, but in much of the first half, the number was closer to 90%. City used their advantage to unleash Haaland and rhythmic procession of goals.
12’ Haaland gets his 7th goal of the Premier League season on his first touch of the game. In what will be a theme, this was a beautiful team goal coming from a perfectly worked corner. Captain Ilkay Gundogan passed the ball past the left side of the Forest penalty box to Phil Foden. Foden settled and then lifted a ball into the path of Haaland’s run for him to deftly flick on goal with his left foot.
23’ Bernardo Silva intercepted a poor clearance attempt from Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Dean Henderson. A quick procession of one-touch passes from Silva to Julian Alvarez to Gundogan to Haaland to Foden making a run toward goal. Foden draws two defenders and Henderson to him and deftly lays it off to Haaland who slots the ball into the empty net with his right.
38’ Thirteen minutes later, what can only be called a collector's item goal. Rarely in the Josep Guardiola era have we seen the like. From another Gundogan corner, this time from the right, the ball flicked out to the opposite side of the box. Bernardo gathers and with his back to goal finds Joao Cancelo coming forward. From about 30 yards, Cancelo lifts a cross to Foden on the right side of goal; Foden directs a header back across goal to John Stones, who had an earlier goal called back for offside, who in turn nods the ball to the centre of goal for Haaland, who heads it home.
For the second game on the bounce, Haaland had a hat trick. A first-half hat trick. A perfect first-half hat trick. City would see the half out still dominating possession and still looking dangerous.
The second half saw no changes in the line-up or the direction of the game.
50’ It didn’t take long after the second-half kick-off for City to get back on the front foot. After winning back possession from a rare Forest venture into Ederson’s end of the pitch, City moved the ball through Gundogan out wide to the right. Silva put pressure on the right side of the box and then cut to his left and found Cancelo, two meters outside the area. Joao settled, moved the ball from his left to right and curled a screamer into the near top corner.
65’ Foden and Rodri made way for Riyad Mahrez and Cole Palmer at the 55th minute but the song remained the same, this time with a new singer. City were in a comfortable run of possession with Forest packed in trying to avoid going down further. Building from the back, Kyle Walker played a ball over the top to Mahrez. The Algerian won the aerial duel against three Forest defenders and slotted a pass for Alvarez making a run toward the six-yard box. Alvarez took his chance low across the goal and into the opposite corner to open his Premier League account.
87’ A string of substitutions followed the Alvarez tally. Sergio Gomez for Cancelo (68’), Kevin DeBruyne for Haaland (69’), and Rico Lewis for Stones (75’). From a free kick for Forest from about 25 yards from the Blues goal, KDB wins the ball back after it bangs off the City wall and the break is on. The Belgian star finds Mahrez on the right, who moves to his left and releases a shot that is headed down by Forest defender Scott McKenna, but only into the path of Alvarez, who blasts the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards out.
City would see the game out with ease from there. It was an utterly one-sided match, but it was a tantalising look at what CIty can be this season. The front three of Foden, Haaland, and Alvarez were far too much for Forest to handle. Haaland’s hat trick leaves him with nine goals from five PL matches and he is the fastest player ever to record two hat tricks in league history. The previous record was 21 matches. Haaland was the clear choice for Man of the Match.
Manchester City have no time to bask in the glory of this performance. The Sky Blues are off to Birmingham this Saturday to take on Aston Villa at Villa Park. Stay with us at Bitter and Blue for all the latest.