Ronaldo and Messi? Haaland is on that level, says Pep Guardiola

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Erling Haaland became just the third Premier League player to score at least 30 goals in his first season in the competition on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola believes Erling Haaland is a match for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as a pure goalscorer after the striker netted his 44th goal of the season on Saturday.

Haaland scored twice as Manchester City won 4-1 away at Southampton to move within five points of Premier League leaders Arsenal, who play Liverpool at the weekend.

The striker’s second, a brilliant acrobatic volley, took him to 44 goals in all competitions in his first season in England, now tied for the most by a Premier League player in a single campaign alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy (2002-03) and Mohamed. Salah (2017-18).

30 of those goals came in the league and Guardiola praised Haaland after the win, comparing his prolific talisman to two of football’s greats.

“The second goal was amazing,” Guardiola told BBC Match of the Day. “It’s not easy to lift the ball into the sky and put it on the grass.

“His talent is really good. We need him. The first half was not our best but he changed the game.

“As a top scorer, we’ve had two incredible decades with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but he’s at that level. He scores a lot of goals.”

Southampton, the Premier League’s bottom side, largely kept City at bay in the first half until Haaland’s 45th-minute header gave the reigning champions the lead.

Guardiola acknowledged Saints’ stubborn display in the opening period, saying: “I give Southampton a lot of credit. Their game plan was really, really good.”

“Sometimes you have to give the opposition credit when you’re not at your level. We were lucky to be ahead at half-time.”

“We had more physicality in the second half. We found the second goal after we won the duel and after it was easy.”

City’s win puts the pressure back on an Arsenal side heading into a miserable hunting ground at Anfield, where they haven’t picked up three points since the 2012-13 season, when current manager Mikel Arteta started in midfield for the Gunners.

Guardiola would rather be in their shoes, though, when it comes to the Premier League title race, he said: “I would like to be in the position that Arsenal are in. I would like that. That’s the way it is.”

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