Young pretender Haaland takes on master Lewandowski for first time


Young pretender Haaland takes on master Lewandowski for first time

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — One of world football's fastest-rising young stars goes head-to-head with one of its most accomplished goalscorers today as Erling Braut Haaland and Robert Lewandowski face off for the first time.

Borussia Dortmund host Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in a top-of-the-table clash which will see 19-year-old Haaland and the man 12 years his senior both try to maintain remarkable runs of form.

Both players have scored exactly 41 goals in 35 matches in all competitions this season, although Haaland only joined Dortmund in January from Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg.

Bayern Coach Hansi Flick, whose side is four points clear of Dortmund, believes close -comparisons between the two are premature, but acknowledged Haaland's obvious ability.

“Haaland is in his first season...Robert has been evolving for several years at the top level,” he said. “But Haaland has huge talent.”

Before the Champions League was suspended in March due to the coronavirus, Haaland was second only to Lewandowski in the competition's goalscoring charts, one behind the Pole's tally of 11.

Lewandowski's haul included four goals in just 14 second-half minutes during a 6-0 group stage rout of Red Star Belgrade last November, bringing back memories of his astonishing five goals in nine minutes against Wolfsburg in 2015.

Haaland scored eight goals for Salzburg in the group stage and two for Dortmund in their last-16 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain.

Lewandowski has netted 27 goals in 25 Bundesliga matches and is on track to be crowned the league's top scorer for the fifth time in 10 seasons.

Haaland has netted 10 league goals in as many games but his ratio - a goal every 69 minutes - is even better than Lewandowski's 82 minutes.

Both Haaland and Lewandowski are discreet about their lives off the pitch and appear happier to let their goalscoring feats speak for themselves.

“He's one of those guys who's really into training,” Dortmund defender Mats Hummels said of Haaland, who has a habit of giving short answers in interviews.

“I like the way he approaches work at his age,” Hummels added.

Lewandowski is known for preferring to spend time in the gym rather than on the red carpet.

“In his head he thinks about the right food, sleep and training – 24 hours a day,” former Bayern Coach Pep Guardiola said.

“He is always there, never injured, because he focuses on these things.”

That focus perhaps allows the pair to be so ruthless in front of goal.

In January, Haaland became the first player to score a hat-trick as a substitute on their Bundesliga debut, and was also the third-youngest player, behind Wayne Rooney and Raul, to score a Champions League treble, at age 19 years and 58 days, last September.

Lewandowski is also remembered for some jaw-dropping individual performances during a career built on consistent goalscoring.

He set multiple records with his remarkable burst against Wolfsburg five years ago, and also scored four goals while a Dortmund player in the 2013 Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.

Like Haaland, Lewandowski's first major European club was Dortmund, which he joined as a raw 20-year-old in 2010 from Polish side Lech Poznan for a fee of 4.5 million euros (US$4.9 million).

He also wasted little time in breaking into the side and helped Dortmund win the 2011 and 2012 Bundesliga titles under Jurgen Klopp. He memorably scored a hat-trick against future employers Bayern in a 5-2 German Cup final thrashing in 2012.

Haaland has taken to life in Dortmund even more quickly than Lewandowski, though, scoring 13 goals in his first 13 games for the club, including the first goal of the resumed season in a 4-0 win against Schalke.

In contrast, Lewandowski could only manage nine goals in 43 appearances in his debut season in 2010-11.

The teenager has plenty still to do to emulate his older counterpart, though, as the Bayern star has since scored 326 club goals across the subsequent nine campaigns.

But Lewandowski himself thinks Haaland could keep up his incredible form.

“Haaland has huge potential, but also time,” he said. “If he works hard he can become a better player and reach the top level.”

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