Whisper it, but Erling Braut Haaland didn’t have the best of first halves for Borussia Dortmund against Paris Saint-Germain. By the time the clock hit 90, no one cared.
We knew all about the Norwegian’s goalscoring exploits before he even rocked up at Signal Iduna Park – 28 goals in 22 games for Red Bull Salzburg gave us enough of a glimpse of that, after nine in a single Under-20 World Cup game had whetted our appetitie – but PSG provided a different test.
The ridiculous hot streak we’d witnessed in Germany had given way to something a little more timid for 45 minutes, with the exception of one lung-busting run which wasn’t rewarded with a killer pass. However, as we soon realised, that was merely a blip.
Haaland has already reached the stage where write-ups of his performances force us to decide which of his goals to focus on: he has found the net in six of his seven Dortmund appearances, and on four of those occasions he has scored multiple goals.
His first goal was broadly good but, if we’re being honest, it’s the bread and butter of a player who can score more or less at will.
There are strikers elsewhere in the world who would kill to have opportunities like this come so easily to them, but for Haaland it’s little more than a preamble.
🔟 goals in 7️⃣ Dortmund games!
The machine keeps going 🙌
We're running out of words for Haaland! pic.twitter.com/XouBUmmA0s
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 18, 2020
“He’s the type of striker we really needed,” team-mate Axel Witsel told Viasport after the game.
It was hardly a big stretch for Witsel to back the Norwegian to become one of the best around, given his record of a goal every 39.5 minutes for Dortmund, but Haaland’s second goal of the night was enough to convince plenty of others of the same thing.
The left-footed strike isn’t just the kind of effort that draws a reaction when you see it for the first time – it gets the exact same reaction on the third, fourth or fifth viewing, even when you know what’s coming next.
If you didn’t let out a little high-pitched yelp when that second Haaland goal hit the back of the net, just a minute after Neymar had equalised for the visitors, then I’m afraid it means your body just isn’t capable of such a noise.
It’s not an involuntary reaction as much as it is a natural reflex, inseparable from the ball hitting the back of the net with that satisfying clang.
This is THE angle of Erling Braut Håland's goal you all wanted to see…
Watch 360° highlights and instant replays of EVERY goal on the BT Sport app 📲pic.twitter.com/RQAG5RzKGV
— BT Sport (@btsport) February 18, 2020
Anyway, about that sound.
All too often, elite football feels almost intangible to the layman, especially when it involves goal returns which seem alien to the previous generation’s exploits.
It becomes a TV show more than a form of entertainment to which you can feel any direct attachment, at least at the Champions League level, with the achievements more or less melding into one amorphous mass of brilliance.
The familiar sound of a ball crashing against the back of the net, though? That takes you back to something more relatable, to a time when you watched football with wide-eyed excitement. It reminds us we’re watching a real thing from which we’re not too far removed, and it reminds us there used to be a time when we saw a football career in our own futures.
Does it matter that Haaland, at 19, is younger than some of us were when we’d given up all hope of making it? Honestly? Yes, a little bit.
Erling Braut Haaland now has 39 goals in 29 games this season, and it has taken him just 464 minutes of Champions League football to hit double-figures.
To make us feel even worse, his winner against PSG was created by 17-year-old Gio Reyna.
It’s enough to prompt an existential crisis in more or less anyone, but his achievements also bring the kind of joy that can often be missing from high-level football.
Now it’s time to sit back and wait for the might of PSG to swat Dortmund aside in the second leg and return everything to normal. We can’t be getting too drawn in, after all.
By Tom Victor