Red Bull Salzburg’s on-fire Erling Braut Haaland scored a first-half hat-trick as they kicked off Group E in the Champions League with a 6-2 thrashing of Genk.
Liverpool suffered a 2-0 defeat to Napoli in their opening group game, while at the same time in Austria, Salzburg hosted the Belgian champions at the Red Bull Arena.
The Reds’ visit to Stadio San Paolo proved a tight, tense affair, ultimately decided by a lack of end product from the visitors, a controversial penalty call for the hosts and a defensive mixup prompted by Virgil van Dijk.
But though it took 82 minutes for Dries Mertens to break the deadlock in Naples, Salzburg had opened the scoring within two minutes in their clash.
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That goal came from Haaland, firing hard and low beyond Gaetan Coucke to the delight of the home supporters, who had not seen their club in the Champions League since 1994.
Haaland added his second on 34 minutes and, after the impressive Hee-chan Hwang scored one of his own and Jhon Lucumi reduced the deficit for Genk, the Norwegian netted his hat-trick on the cusp of half-time.
The teenager had coasted into space ahead of Coucke, poking home to become the first player to score more than once on his Champions League debut since Wayne Rooney in 2004, and the third-youngest to net a treble in the competition:
19y 58d – Erling Haaland, aged 19 years and 58 days, is the third youngest player to score a Champions League hat-trick, behind Raúl (18y 113d in 1995) and Wayne Rooney (18y 340d in 2004). Welcome. pic.twitter.com/24DNlzXdza
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 17, 2019
Dominik Szoboszlai made it 5-1 before the break, and though Mbwana Samatta scored another consolation for Genk early in the second half, Andreas Ulmer sealed a 6-2 victory for Salzburg soon after.
The win puts Jesse Marsch’s side top of Group E after one game, ahead of Napoli on goal difference, with Haaland’s incredible feat the deciding factor.
Haaland’s three goals on Tuesday night bring his tally for the campaign to 17 in nine games for Salzburg so far, also setting up five.
And this comes after a record-breaking nine goals in a single game at the Under-20 World Cup in May.
He cannot be the sole focus for the Reds that night, but his finishing ability and predatory instinct will be major threat for Salzburg as they aim to build on their excellent start in Europe.