VIDEO: Antonio Rudiger's Handling of Erling Haaland Goes Viral
Erling Haaland was limited to just 21 touches of the ball in Tuesday night's Champions League semi-final clash against Real Madrid thanks, in part, to the touch-tight defending of Antonio Rudiger.
The 30-year-old German centre-back used to physicality to shut down the attacking threat of Haaland, who was handed a brutal 3/10 rating from Spanish publication Marca for Tuesday night's performance.
In his post-match assessment of the game, BT Sport pundit Joleon Lescott summed up Rudiger's outing perfectly.
"You can be aggressive but you’ve got to have the strength and the capability," he said. "We’ve seen players try to be aggressive but not be able to match the strength and the pace, while Rudiger found himself isolated.
What a fight 🔥👊🏾 we will give it our all next week again 🙌🏾💪🏾🤍 #Hustle #AlwaysBelieve pic.twitter.com/p8phIs6rLo— Antonio Rüdiger (@ToniRuediger) May 9, 2023
"We were watching him [Rudiger] when the ball was nowhere near him, pulling Haaland's shirt, pushing him around. It’s a pattern to go forward but I don’t think every centre half can take that approach."
As Lescott mentioned on air, former Chelsea defender Rudiger could be seen pushing Haaland around, even when the ball was elsewhere.
In fact, fan footage from the Bernabeu shows the Real Madrid defender nudging Haaland in the back in a bid to unsettle the Premier League's top goalscorer.
Watch video below...
Rüdiger vs Haaland. 😭 pic.twitter.com/aO8iWmzrme— TC (@totalcristiano) May 10, 2023
In his post-match interview, Rudiger ramped up the mind games by saying Pep Guardiola's side were "not dangerous" throughout the semi-final first leg.
"We got the goal a bit late so we feel a bit like we could have got out with more," he told beIN Sports after the game. "But it's no problem, the tie is definitely on and we can go with confidence to Manchester.
"At the end of the day they were not dangerous. They had possession, we knew that this would happen... but most importantly they were not dangerous. Obviously their goal was quality from De Bruyne."
Antonio Rudiger limited Erling Haaland to just 21 touches last night ⛔️— SPORTbible (@sportbible) May 10, 2023
Ander Herrera vs Eden Hazard vibes from 2017 at Old Trafford 😅 pic.twitter.com/QI5eK50NT7
Rio Ferdinand, meanwhile, praised the German international for his performance against arguably the best striker in world football right now.
"Militao is normally the first choice centre-back but he was out so Rudiger comes in," he told BT Sport.
"If you were going to ask any player to come in in European football at the moment, I probably would have said for aggression, application, the way he enjoys that physical element of the game.
"That’s what we’ve been saying about Haaland in the Premier League, who’s been willing to take him and have a 1 v 1 battle and be confident the way Rudiger was today?
"He was excellent and clever as well at times. He made one great block in the second half. I think you’ve got to be aggressive with Haaland.
"I still don’t think they nullified him completely but I thought today that’s the best I’ve seen a centre-back pairing play him.’