No number of goals can hide Erling Haaland from ‘worst miss of all time’

Erling Haaland - No number of goals can hide Erling Haaland from 'worst miss of all time'

It will be harsh for Erling Haaland to win a second Golden Boot and have his season defined by an open-goal blunder, but Gary Lineker believes the Manchester City striker was guilty of the worst top-flight miss in history.

Phil Foden had headed across goal and Haaland only had to tap into an empty net to add to his 79 goals for City since arriving in English football less than two years ago. When his finished spooned over the bar, he ran his hands through his ponytailed hair in genuine disbelief.

“That might be the worst miss I’ve ever seen at this level. @ErlingHaaland has to head it. Incredible,” was the reaction of ex-England striker Lineker on X, formerly Twitter. The Match Of The Day host was as stunned as Pep Guardiola, who sat down to compose himself after the miss, which came as his team trailed Manchester United 1-0.

Haaland’s miss was a shocker, the type he may think back to in horror now the dust has settled on a derby win that saw him eventually get on the scoresheet. But the worst of all time? The Norwegian’s finish was an instinctive prod at the ball which went wrong, rather than from the Ronny Rosenthal school of open-goal misses.

Rosenthal had time on his side when he took the ball around Nigel Spink. There was plenty of time for the Liverpool striker to roll the ball over the line, or walk it in. Fernando Torres’ miss for Chelsea at Old Trafford was similar. His wretched slice with the goal at his mercy was at a different level to Haaland’s.

For Guardiola, the true mark of Haaland was the way he responded. And while the miss will inevitably be replayed, his memory of the striker will be coming back and scoring City’s third goal.

Guardiola has name-dropped the Chicago Bulls and tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in recent weeks when talking about City’s longevity, and he sees the mentality of one of the sporting greats in Haaland, fallible but able to compartmentalise his disappointment.

“He was disappointed, I was disappointed,” said Guardiola. “I want him to score four or five goals every game like he did against Luton. But I don’t care. He can miss this one, it is the reaction. He is sad for 10 seconds and he can miss five more and is sad for 10 seconds in his mind but after that erase it and onto the next one.

“The great great players I met, and I’ve been fortunate as a player and especially a manager, they have this incredible ability to forget in an instant. It’s painful, iut has to be, but they forget it as quick as possible.

“Tennis players, golf players, basketball players, when they miss, and everyone misses, they say ‘okay’, smile, be positive and go for the next. That defines the great players and he did it.”

Guardiola has been particularly focused on Haaland’s reaction to adversity this season. He was going through a relative drought of four games without a goal and the City manager was not happy with his player’s body language. “Body language is everything in life,” said Guardiola.

Since that criticism, Haaland has responded with a familiar glut of goals, nine in his last seven games. That is perhaps the Guardiola trick of man-management, to ask for improvement when all seems to be going well, so even when one of the misses of the season occurs, the deadliest striker in the Premier League can carry on as if nothing has happened.