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Erling Haaland’s Latest Software Upgrade Has Made Him Unplayable

With 18 goals in his first 13 Champions League appearances, Erling Haaland is on pace to overtake Cristiano Ronaldo’s all-time scoring record sometime next month. The 20-year-old Norwegian scored two and assisted one — all in the first half — of Borussia Dortmund’s electric 3-2 victory over Sevilla in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.  

That goalscoring record is an anomaly, but watching Haaland on Wednesday made it somewhat understandable. His game almost beggars belief. He’s got size like Zlatan, goalscoring hunger like Lewandowski, a streak of creativity like Benzema, speed like Ronaldo and a punishing left foot like Messi. He’s also got the ability to fell trees with his bare hands like Paul Bunyan.  

Wednesday's matchup at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán brought together two teams with contrasting domestic form as Dortmund finds itself sixth in the Bundesliga, whereas Sevilla is fourth in LaLiga and on the verge of knocking Barcelona out at the semifinal stage of the Copa del Rey.

In the dugout, it’s already been confirmed that Dortmund interim manager Edin Terzić will be replaced by Gladbach’s Marco Rose come summer, while Sevilla’s Julen Lopetegui has reestablished his reputation as one of the world’s best over the last two years. 

But none of that matters when you’ve got Haaland.

Things went to plan early for Sevilla as its dominance of the ball was rewarded in the seventh minute. Suso did well to work some space on the edge of the area, but his shot needed a deflection from Mats Hummels to swerve over the despairing arm of Marwin Hitz. 

Sevilla continued to look comfortable over the next 10 minutes, but things fall apart. There wasn’t much in the pass from Haaland that created Dortmund’s equalizer, but the way he escaped the pressure of two Sevilla defenders on the touchline with a nutmeg was brilliant. 

From there, enter one Mahmoud Dahoud. 

The physical violence of that goal seemed like it could be literally felt by Sevilla. Eight minutes later, Haaland dropped deep to receive the ball just inside the home team’s half. Sevilla’s Diego Carlos immediately said “fuck this” and began sprinting back toward his own goal with Haaland charging him down like a demented water buffalo.  

With the defense on its heels, the Norwegian flicked it to Jadon Sancho, continued his run, received the return ball and poked it under Bono.   

With Sevilla on tilt, BVB went for the kill. With just two minutes remaining before halftime, skipper Marco Reus easily intercepted a lazy ball inside Sevilla’s half and drove at the defense. Haaland made a smart run around him, opened his body and curled a first-time effort around the keeper. 

The second half was much more controlled from Lopetegui’s side. The manager’s halftime talk must’ve addressed the whole cowering in fear when Haaland receives the ball thing that plagued them throughout the opening 45.

Sevilla went close with a free kick that thundered off the post, but Luuk de Jong ultimately pulled one back after getting on the end of a floated Óscar Rodríguez set piece in the 84th-minute.   

Three away goals usually punches your ticket to the next round, but Sevilla’s ability to control 66 percent possession and attempt 12 shots tells you that it’s not over yet. The return leg, scheduled for March 9 at Signal Iduna Park, should be fascinating.

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