Leipzig (Germany) (AFP) – After finally breaking his goal drought for RB Leipzig, the pressure is on Norway striker Alexander Sorloth to hit the net again in Tuesday’s Champions League clash at home to Manchester United with a last-16 berth at stake.
Having failed to score in his first 10 games for Leipzig, Sorloth struck a last-gasp winner in the crucial 4-3 victory at Istanbul Basaksehir last Wednesday to his huge relief.
Sorloth came on for the last 25 minutes and his low drive sealed the away win which kept Leipzig’s hopes of reaching the knock-out stages in their own hands.
“It’s always important to score your first goal for a new club — I am incredibly happy and relieved,” Sorloth beamed in Istanbul.
“In an exciting and balanced group, it was a very, very important victory.
“Now we have a final against Manchester United that we definitely want to win.”
Only victory on Tuesday will assure either club a last-16 spot.
Going into the final round of matches, Leipzig, Man Utd and Paris Saint-Germain are all on nine points in Group H.
– Score to settle –
To add extra spice, Leipzig have a score to settle from October’s 5-0 thrashing at Old Trafford when United striker Marcus Rushford scored a hat-trick.
Backed by energy drinks giants Red Bull, RB Leipzig want to be a permanent fixture in the Champions League and build on last season’s run to the semi-finals.
Bowing out in the group stage would hurt the ambitious club from Germany’s east.
Leipzig paid Palace 20 million euros ($24 million) for Sorloth in September to replace Timo Werner following the Germany striker’s move to Chelsea.
While Norway national team-mate Erling Braut Haaland has sent Bundesliga records tumbling at Dortmund since his January transfer from Salzburg, Sorloth has not found the move to Germany so easy.
Despite sealing the win over Basaksehir, Sorloth is likely to start on the bench having often struggled in front of goal this season.
Another goal in Europe would boost his standing.
After forwards Emil Forsberg, Justin Kluivert and Christopher Nkunku all netted in Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Bayern Munich, Sorloth came on for the last 13 minutes at the Allianz Arena.
Sorloth is still waiting for his first Bundesliga goal after nine games, including four starts. He is no stranger to goal droughts.
Crystal Palace paid Danish side Midtjylland nine million pounds ($12 million) for Sorloth in 2018, but he failed to score a Premier League goal in 16 appearances — 12 off the bench.
He was loaned out to Gent, then Trabzonspor, where he hit the ground running last season with six goals and three assists in his first nine appearances.
– Turnaround in Turkey –
He set the Turkish league alight with 24 goals in 34 games, ending with a total of 33 goals in 49 appearances in 2019/20.
Trabzonspor wanted to sign Sorloth permanently. However, the club’s ban from UEFA competitions for breaching financial fair-play rules left Sorloth searching for a Champions League club.
Leipzig came calling.
After failing to score in his first seven Bundesliga games, worry lines were etched on his face after his weak penalty attempt was saved in a 2-1 win at Arminia Bielefeld 10 days ago.
Sorloth’s goal drought was such a concern that Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann admitted “a stone lifted from our hearts” when he scored in Istanbul.
In a bid to boost his confidence, Nagelsmann sat down with Sorloth before the Basaksehir game to watch videos of his time in Turkey and his goals for their rivals Trabzonspor.
The result was the winner as Sorloth combined with Yussuf Poulsen to score with a superb finish and his head coach would love to see another goal against Man Utd.
“Things will probably be easier for him — that’s mostly how it is with strikers,” said Nagelsmann.
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