After coming from behind to beat Wolves 3-1 in the early kick-off on Saturday, Liverpool briefly went top of the Premier League.
For a time, it looked as if the Reds would surprisingly manage to stay there as erstwhile leader Manchester City toiled against West Ham.
City trailed at the break thanks to a goal from James Ward-Prowse, and while it managed to get level virtually as soon as play resumed through Jérémy Doku, it wouldn’t complete the turnaround until the 75th minute.
A large part of the reason for this was the uncharacteristic profligacy of City striker Erling Haaland, the man who broke the Premier League goals record last season by scoring a staggering 36 times.
On Saturday, he made an unwanted piece of top-flight history, becoming the first player to miss five big chances in a single match since WhoScored started collecting Opta data in 2009.
He looked certain to score when Joško Gvardiol picked him out at the back post, but he seemed to almost lose his bearings as he hooked his shot wide. Later in the first half, Doku’s ball across found him in a similar position, but he couldn’t generate any power on his strike and Alphonse Areola was able to get across in time.
Then, in the second half, he helped Rodri’s chip goalwards, only for Areola to palm it away, and the Frenchman comfortably caught his header from Bernardo Silva’s delivery. The fifth and final miss came when Kyle Walker burst down the line and fired the ball into the area, but the arriving Norwegian volleyed straight at the ‘keeper rather than finding the corner.
And yet, Haaland proved once again that he is simply inevitable by getting his goal with five minutes of normal time remaining, collecting Bernardo’s pass and lazing an unsaveable strike into the net with the air of a man whose confidence hadn’t been remotely dented by an otherwise embarrassing afternoon.
Darwin Núñez, Haaland’s counterpart at Liverpool as a fellow big-money number nine, has missed multiple big chances in six matches since he arrived at the club, but he’s only managed to score in one of those (his Premier League debut against Fulham), despite averaging 5.4 shots in those games.
The events at the London Stadium show the importance of remaining optimistic as a striker, refusing to resign yourself to the idea that it’s not your day when you fluff your lines.
Instead, you should keep going, confident that the quality of your movement (and this is an area where Núñez particularly excels) and the creativity of your teammates (he’s surrounded by elite playmakers at Anfield) will ensure an opportunity to make amends.
Even by struggling, then, Haaland has taught his opposite number a valuable lesson.