Belfast Telegraph

How can Liverpool stop Erling Haaland? Glenavon's Andrew Doyle relives a rare European shut-out against Salzburg hot-shot

Glenavon defender Andrew Doyle celebrates stopping Erling Haaland last summer.
Glenavon defender Andrew Doyle celebrates stopping Erling Haaland last summer.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

If the world's best defender is looking any advice on how to stop Salzburg on Tuesday night, he could do worse than getting on the phone to Mourneview Park.

Erling Braut Haaland is one of the most sought-after strikers in Europe, attracting the attentions of the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

One of the main reasons he tops the scouting lists of some of the biggest club's in the continent is his eye-popping goal record in UEFA competition.

The teenager has started eight Champions League and Europa League matches in his fledgling career. In those, he has scored 10 times and failed to net only twice.

But Liverpool centre-back Virgil Van Dijk could do with stopping him, given the Reds most likely need a result at the Red Bull Arena if they're to avoid dropping into the Europa League.

Preventing Haaland finding the net would be a feather in the cap for any defender, Ballon D'Or runner-up or otherwise.

Little wonder that Glenavon's Andrew Doyle is still enjoying the achievement.

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"It's something I'll live off for a good while," he laughs, casting his mind back to July 11 last year.

Back then, Haaland was plying his trade for Molde under the stewardship of a young manager by the name of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian side arrived in Lurgan highly fancied to leave with a convincing first-leg win and Europa League progression all-but secured.

Expected to be at the centre of it was Haaland - son of former Manchester City star Alf-Inge.

In the build-up to the match, and still weeks shy of his 18th birthday, the rumours of United's interest were gathering pace as Haaland had netted six goals in his previous two Eliteserien matches. Glenavon had been well warned of his abilities.

"We watched the highlights of their previous few games in the nights leading up to it and I was absolutely bricking it," continues Doyle.

"He was so powerful and had scored four goals in the match before we played them. We were watching that and really it was all about him.

"We had a laugh about it and the boys were giving me a bit of banter."

Those smiles were even wider come the full-time whistle at Mourneview, as goals from Rhys Marshall and Josh Daniels had secured a shock 2-1 win, with Haaland's name tellingly absent from the score-sheet.

It was all down to Doyle, a UPS employee getting the better of one of Europe's leading lights.

"It was me and Caolan Marron in central defence that night and we managed him really well," he confesses. "There were a couple of times I went up against him one of one and managed to get the better of him. I must have had a bit of luck on my side.

"It wasn't his night. The pitch was dry and probably a bit bobbly - maybe he just didn't fancy it, I don't know."

Modest.

In fact, it's unlikely Haaland would have been lacking in motivation, given that it was no secret that a shed-load of scouts has descended on Lurgan with one man in their sights. Representatives from Liverpool, Newcastle, Celtic, Arsenal and more could make an early exit as Solskjaer withdrew his star man eight minutes from time, such was Doyle's dominance.

How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool would like to see Haaland's number flash up on the fourth official's board while they're 2-1 ahead on Tuesday night.

"It's something I'll be able to say throughout his career, no matter where he gets to," says a rightfully proud Doyle. "I played against him and he didn't score. It is a nice thought when you see him scoring hat-tricks in the Champions League now and wanted by all those top clubs.

"He was so young but he was a big lad even then and better put together than me. It was very impressive for a 17-year-old guy.

"He had such a big presence. Near the start of the game, I tried to throw the shoulder into him to knock him off. I'm well enough built to be able to do that sort of thing in our league and impose myself but I bounced off him. He didn't even move. He was scary big and that's over a year ago."

He did come back from his Doyle disappointment, it's fair to say.

Haaland is the second top scorer in this season's Champions League, with eight from five games so far. The likes of Kalidou Koulibaly (twice) and Van Dijk himself have already failed to stop him finding the net this term.

The season hasn't even hit half way and already he has 28 goals to his name in all competitions, including no less than four hat-tricks.

So what's the secret behind what is an increasingly impressive feat - stopping him?

"We didn't have much of a specific plan to deal with him," Doyle says. "I normally play pretty aggressively, get at people and put them off their game. That's just what I tried to do and was maybe saying a few wee things in his ear to try and distract him as well. Nothing disrespectful or anything, but just something to try and throw him off.

"But Van Dijk's pretty good so I don't think he needs any advice."

Glenavon, of course, would go on to exit the competition after a 5-1 defeat away in Molde, Haaland not playing due to a call-up to Norway's Under 19 squad.

"I wish I could say it was because he was scared to face me again," laughs Doyle.

"They were brilliant but we did a good job against them. It was 3-1 until the final few minutes over there, meaning another goal could have put us through on away goals.

"I remember Josh Daniels going for an overhead kick and he caught it so well but it was straight at the keeper. Had it been either side of him, it had a good chance of going in. Then they scored two goals and that was that.

"Rhys (Marshall) was class against them. I remember Ole saying that he couldn't believe we weren't full-time. It was a match we'll always remember."

Rather than worry about his old adversary, Doyle and Glenavon have fresh concerns of their own. The centre-half is due to sit out tonight's game against Carrick and this weekend's trip to Institute after sustaining a calf injury in Saturday's defeat to Larne.

Two more losses this week and his side would be just two points above the relegation play-off place.

"It's such a similar squad to the one that we had that night against Molde," says Doyle. "So we're hoping things will change for us in the second half of the season with our injured players coming back.

"I missed a lot of last season with injury and probably shouldn't be playing as many games as I have been. I've been thrown into the deep end because of the problems that we've had."

It's all a far cry from upsetting one of Europe's top marksmen.

But he'd still make time for a quick call from Virgil.

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