Erling Haaland’s amazing goalscoring feats this season have led some to believe he is not actually human but even he felt the pressure of having to convert an injury-time penalty to give Manchester City victory over Fulham.
The 22-year-old Norwegian, who just about beat Bernd Leno with his 95th-minute spot-kick to send his side top of the Premier League and spark wild celebrations at Etihad Stadium, admitted to Sky Sports afterwards: “I was nervous – it was one of the most nervous moments of my life.
“A penalty in the last minute? Of course I would be nervous,” he added to BBC Sport. “But it was about getting through the situation in the proper way and I did that. It was a fantastic feeling to score.
“I love it. I have been injured for a week and it was really important for us to win.”
Haaland, who had started on the bench after missing City’s last two games with a foot problem, had seen an earlier header disallowed for offside by VAR and with four other targets either missed the ball, the target or saw his shot blocked.
He was not to be denied, however, and after scoring his second penalty for City, he now has 18 Premier League goals in his first 12 games – and 23 from 17 in all competitions – this season.
Most of his finishes during that spectacular scoring run have been a lot more emphatic than this latest strike, which Leno appeared to dive over and get a hand to without being able to keep it out, but Haaland’s only concern was that it ended up in the net, like all the rest.
“I don’t care how it went in, it is about it going in. It was an amazing feeling,” Haaland said.
“For me, it was about coming in with some energy and try and get a goal because these three points are really important. It was about trying to get it and that is what we did.”
Guardiola said he understood why Haaland was nervous about his penalty although his maths let him down when he tried to explain why it still went in.
“It was long time before he could put the ball down and take the penalty,” Guardiola explained. “It means you can think a lot.
“Erling has also had two or three weeks with no training, you can lose your rhythm and your tempo.
So, the penalty was not the best penalty I have ever seen in my life but I would say he hit it strong.
“When you play soft to one side, it is 50-50 [whether it will be saved or not]. If it is strong it is 75-30 – ah, sorry 75-15. Mathematics, I am not a genius!
“Leno, I know him from Germany and he is an incredible saver of penalties. But in the end, the finish was good. It looks like everything was against us today but at the end we could win.”
Guardiola joined the celebrations at the final whistle, embracing Haaland and joining his players in a lap of honour.
He viewed this victory as a hugely significant one after seeing his side play for more than an hour with 10 men following Joao Cancelo’s red card while conceding the penalty for Fulham’s equaliser.
“We played in the right tempo at 10 versus 11,” Guardiola said. “You cannot attack so quick because they will attack quicker.
“All the players in the middle were amazing – Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri and especially Kevin de Bruyne.
“I have said many times recently that Kevin is still not at his best but the games against Leicester and now here, it was completely the opposite.
“Everyone was exceptional. For 65 minutes against Fulham to play the way we played was the moment of my period here in Manchester by far – then scoring at the end and celebrating with our people.
“We didn’t win the Premier League today, of course, but these moments make sense of our jobs, all of us, to see the faces of the crowd when we walked around the pitch afterwards.”