Manchester City defeated Wolves in this match, who were in danger of relegation, 4-0, thanks in large part to a hat trick from Erling Haaland, who now has 31 goals for the season.
Haaland had hit a creative dry period, at least by his lofty standards.
The Norwegian scored for the first time in three games against Tottenham on Thursday, and then he scored twice in 12 minutes to destroy the Wolves before halftime.
At the beginning of the game, Haaland jumped high and tipped in a cross from Kevin de Bruyne to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Then, after Wolves captain Ruben Neves fouled Ilkay Gundogan, he calmly slotted home the ensuing penalty kick. Finally, after Jose Sa’s throw out of his own 6-yard box went straight to Riyad Mahrez, he swept home his hat trick.
So far, during City’s first 20 Premier League games, Haaland has scored 25 goals. That’s 5 more than Luis Suarez had by the same point in the 2013–14 season.
With his current number of goals, the Norwegian forward would win the Golden Boot 15 times out of the 30 seasons since the English Premier League started in 1992.
He also has as many hat tricks in the Premier League as Mo Salah and one-third as many as Sergio Aguero, who scored a record 12 during his wonderful decade at City.
To date, Alan Shearer is the only player in Premier League history to record multiple hat tricks in a single season (5 in 2002–03).
The city with Haaland at the wheel
Guardiola’s shocking rant after the win over Tottenham was about how hard it is to keep your passion and drive when you are used to being successful.
For that reason, Haaland is a crucial cog in this machine.
It has been three years since the Norwegian won a league championship. The 2021 German Cup was Borussia Dortmund and his last trophy.
Haaland’s hunger for goals could be a deciding factor in the second half of this season, even if the prospect of a fifth championship in six seasons fails to motivate other City players.
After an hour of play, Guardiola decided there was no purpose in continuing to play with the striker and replaced him with World Cup hero Julian Alvarez.
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City fans should take heart in the fact that Jack Grealish also appears to be finding greater consistency on the pitch.
His darting runs down the left flank are reminiscent of his time at Aston Villa, and he should have scored in the first half but for a fantastic stop by Sa and a timely clearance by Nathan Collins.
Mahrez had a goal disallowed for offside, but after that, City coasted to victory, and Haaland got the applause of the home crowd.
The Wolves, led by Lopetegui, sputter.
Since taking over for Bruno Lage as Wolves manager during the World Cup, Julen Lopetegui has not had a major setback until now.
While his team may only be safe from relegation on goal differential, former Spain and Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque can take solace in the fact that there aren’t many more challenging tests than this.
Craig Dawson, acquired from West Ham for £3.3 million, should help shore up a shaky defense. And the inclusion of Mario Lemina in the starting lineup for the first time and the debut of Pablo Sarabia further create a team Lopetegui can work with, especially if Flamengo’s Joao Gomes can be prevented from joining Lyon.
He obviously wants the Wolves’ passing to be wider, but because they are out of the FA Cup fourth round and have an extra week to prepare, they should be OK.
The month of February will be critical as Wolves face two teams currently behind them in the standings, Southampton and Bournemouth, in consecutive weeks.
No one could deny the commitment of Lopetegui. He and Neves were both booked for their roles in an altercation after City’s Rico Lewis seemed to bring down Hwang Hee-chan as the South Korean was about to launch a long run toward the City goal before Haaland redirected play. And that’s all about the match where Manchester City defeated the Wolves.