Leipzig's Openda announces himself as one of UCL's brightest prospects
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Keep an eye on Lois Openda. On a night when Erling Haaland set yet another scoring record, Openda announced himself on the big stage with two goals at the home of the European champions.
Manchester City recovered from going 2-0 down against Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday to win 3-2 and Haaland became the fastest player to score 40 goals in the competition. But Openda’s performance is likely to have earned him admiring glances from rival clubs.
“He just came to Leipzig. I think he stays a little bit longer. That’s what I hope,” said his coach Marco Rose, who is used to losing his most talented players.
One of those was defender Josko Gvardiol, who left for City in the offseason in a deal worth $99.2 million. But the Croatia international could do nothing when Openda took the ball past him in the first half to score his second goal of the match.
He made similar light work of Manuel Akanji and Ruben Dias in the buildup for each of his goals.
“He knows about his qualities. I think he still can improve a lot of things,” said Rose. “He’s physically strong, that’s what we saw today against strong defenders. He won one-on-ones. He’s fast, he’s able to score. ... We like him.”
City manager Pep Guardiola should not have been surprised by Openda’s performance at Etihad Stadium. He had, after all, scored when the teams played in Leipzig last month. He has scored 13 goals in 20 games since moving to the German club from Lens in July.
The 23-year-old Openda only spent a year in France where his impressive numbers caught the attention of Leipzig’s scouts, after 21 goals in 38 appearances.
His talent was showcased on Tuesday as City’s defense failed to keep pace with him as he burst forward in attack, while he had the power to outmuscle the likes of Dias in a manner rarely seen.
In front of goal, he twice showed composure to pick out the bottom corner to beat goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.
The Bundesliga has increasingly become a market where Premier League teams have looked find talent, with Haaland joining City from Borussia Dortmund, while Christopher Nkunku left Leipzig for Chelsea in the offseason.
Rose hopes he can fend off interest in Openda for a while yet and he believes the Champions League can help him keep hold of the forward.
“Our job is to prepare the guys in the best way, to show them that they are in the right place in Leipzig and not just for one year, maybe for two years or three years or the whole of their career because we, as a club, we have goals too,” he said. “That’s the only thing we can do. Be there, make a good environment for them to work to live, win games playing Champions League. ... That’s very important because I think Leipzig is more interesting than other clubs in England because we are facing City in the Champions League.”
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson