France's forward Kylian Mbappe during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Peru. Picture: REUTERS
France's forward Kylian Mbappe during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group C football match between France and Peru. Picture: REUTERS

Dortmund — The two most expensive players in the world were unable to outshine the prolific Erling Braut Haaland as the Norwegian sensation continued his remarkable rise by scoring both goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on Tuesday.

When Kylian Mbappe teed up Neymar to cancel out Haaland’s opener in the second half of their Champions League last 16 first leg at the Signal Iduna Park, it looked like PSG would leave Germany with the upper hand in the tie.

But then, in the 77th minute, Haaland latched on to a pass from substitute Giovanni Reyna and sent a thumping left-foot shot rising high into the net from the edge of the penalty area to give Dortmund the advantage heading into the return leg in Paris on March 11.

Perhaps PSG’s €402m attacking duo will still make the difference in the return and give the French club a place in the quarterfinals for the first time in four years.

But Dortmund deserved their victory on the night in a tie that only really began to live up to its billing in the second half, coming to life when Haaland pounced to score the opening goal from close range on 69 minutes after Thiago Silva blocked a Raphael Guerreiro shot.

If that was a typical poacher’s finish, the winning goal was a demonstration of sheer brute force from the 1.94m tall, 19-year-old who now has 10 goals in seven Champions League games this season.

“I feel like I still can do a lot better. I have to play better at this level, have to work hard to improve,” Haaland said after being named man of the match. “The result is quite a dangerous one, as Paris has a very strong team and can still go through in the return leg.”

Meanwhile, Dortmund players were full of praise for their teammate, who came to prominence by scoring nine times for Norway in one game at the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.

“He still has huge room for improvement but he is on the road to becoming a truly great player,” Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel told French broadcaster RMC Sport.

Another teammate Emre Can told BT Sport: “Of course he’s a great footballer. He’s also a great guy. He’s a little bit crazy I think, funny, and hopefully he will continue like that.”

Haaland’s eight goals in the group stage were not enough for Salzburg to qualify for the last 16 but they helped him earn his €20m move to Dortmund in the winter window. After 28 goals in 22 games altogether for Salzburg, that fee already looked like a bargain, but his statistics have been even more jaw-dropping since he became part of Lucien Favre’s side.

Scorer of a hat-trick off the bench against Augsburg on his debut, the Leeds-born player now has 11 goals in just seven outings for his new club. It is a phenomenal record, and his presence — with that of Jadon Sancho — helped persuade PSG coach Thomas Tuchel to abandon the 4-4-2 formation he had settled on in recent months to play with three central defenders.

Haaland still managed to be the star of the show despite coming directly up against Silva, Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe.

At the other end, Neymar and Mbappe were kept quiet for most of the night, as was Angel Di Maria. For 21-year-old Mbappe, the risk must be that Haaland is threatening to make him yesterday’s news.

Mbappe’s tally of 19 goals in the Champions League is a record for a player before his 21st birthday. Haaland is already into double figures and will not be 21 until July 2021. Mbappe was seven months younger than Haaland is now when he made it to double figures, but the latter’s current strike rate is frightening.

PSG will have to find a way to keep him quiet in the return leg if the Qatar-owned club are to avoid yet another deeply disappointing exit in the last 16.

AFP