By Peter Hall
LEEDS, England (Reuters) -Erling Haaland continued his incredible season in front of goal with a brace to help Manchester City cruise to a 3-1 victory at Leeds United on Wednesday, ensuring the champions closed the gap to Premier League leaders Arsenal to five points.
The visitors had a hosts of chances in the first half, with Haaland twice denied by fine saves from home goalkeeper Illan Meslier, while England forward Jack Grealish blazed two efforts over from good positions.
It appeared City would go into the interval frustrated, before Spanish midfielder Rodri finally made one count in first half stoppage time, firing home after another Meslier save.
Back in the city of his birth, where his father was a player for Leeds, Norway international Haaland effectively put the game to bed early in the second half with a simple finish, before taking his league tally to 20 for the season in the 64th minute.
Pascal Struijk gave home supporters faint hope of a comeback as he headed home with 17 minutes left, but it was always going to be a consolation against City in this mood.
The victory helped second-placed City move back to within five points Arsenal at the top of the standings, while Leeds stay 15th, two points clear of the relegation zone.
"I have a (goal) target but I cannot say it," Haaland told Amazon. "I just said inside the dressing room that I could have scored five but the most important thing is that we won.
"We have to hunt Arsenal. I could have scored a couple more but that's life and I have to train more."
City lost their last league match before the World Cup break to Brentford but dominated from the off in West Yorkshire, with Haaland wasting no time in having a first attempt at goal, seeing his effort to loft the ball into the net well saved after just 36 seconds.
Against the side they conceded 11 goals over two league matches last term, Leeds remained up against it as Haaland was presented with another golden chance to break the deadlock but he again could not beat Meslier.
The opportunities kept coming and going for City, but finally, with their 16th shot of the opening period alone, Rodri was on hand to stab the opener home.
Alfie Haaland took 181 Premier League appearances to score 18 goals in the competition, but his son needed just 14 to overtake him, slotting home Grealish's pass six minutes into the second half to double City's lead.
Haaland then smashed the record for number of games needed to reach the 20 mark by converting another Grealish pass to make it three, needing seven fewer matches to reach such a goal tally than the next quickest, Kevin Phillips.
Leeds boss Jesse Marsch felt the timing of the goals his side conceded were their undoing.
"One thing you know about Man City is that they are able to manipulate the game with possession and unbalance you but they were able to get us on the transition twice and there was a give away from us which gifted them a goal," Marsch said.
"We contained them well in the first half and we were pretty stable. Then that early goal after the break killed us."
(Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Pritha Sarkar)