City signed Haaland from Borussia Dortmund seeking as close to a guarantee of goals as they could get and when they needed them on Saturday the Norwegian delivered.
He scored three in the space of 20 minutes to turn what could have been another home defeat to Palace into a comfortable win.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best to a first-half Palace display Patrick Vieira described as “perfect”, leading through a John Stones own goal and a Joachim Andersen header, but after Bernardo Silva pulled one back in the 53rd minute, Haaland took over with his first home goals for City.
“These games are why I’m here – to turn things around when there are difficult times,” the 22-year-old said.
After two seasons of playing with a false nine, City are still adjusting to having a striker with the physical presence of the Norwegian.
Phil Foden was criticised for failing to pass the ball to Haaland in goalscoring situations both against Bournemouth and in last week’s draw at Newcastle, but it was the England midfielder’s cross which set up Haaland’s first before he poked home a second and ran on to Silva’s pass for the third.
“Of course you see on the pitch I enjoy it and I feel a connection around me,” Haaland added. “Of course it takes to time but I know it will come and get even better. And that’s a good feeling…
“Finally Phil played the ball to me! It’s a really good feeling, this. We played for each other, we played together and that’s really good. We don’t care who scores, it’s about winning and the winning mentality.”
Haaland’s goals brought a huge roar at the Etihad Stadium, where frustration had built as a compact, clinical Palace – seeking a repeat of their 2-0 win here last season – snuffed out City’s attack for 45 minutes.
This was a fourth game in City’s last six Premier League outings where they have fallen two goals behind. Though they have avoided defeat in all four, winning two, it is a concern for Pep Guardiola.
“We score a lot of goals but the problem I have now is we concede a lot,” Guardiola said. “We struggle to do the uncomfortable things…
“We are lucky to come back. What happened in the past, normally today we lose the game. The Premier League doesn’t wait. Teams are so strong, so difficult, if you fall behind in the points you will not come back.”
As Haaland turned the match around in the second half, a frustrated Vieira could only watch on as City made spaces that Palace had successfully shut down before the break.
“Collectively they went to a different level in the second half that we couldn’t cope with,” he said.
“I’m disappointed to concede four goals but at the same time our first half was a perfect one because we didn’t give them much space, we worked hard and we worked well. We made it really difficult.
“We spent a lot of energy defending in the first half and in the second half we lost a bit of physicality and concentration and discipline and we can’t do that against this team and these players.”
Palace should arguably have been 3-0 up with half an hour gone when Odsonne Edouard deflected an Ederson clearance to Jordan Ayew who fired home. The ball had been fully released but the officials determined Ederson had been impeded and awarded a free-kick.
“From where I was I couldn’t see it, so it would be difficult for me to comment,” Vieira said.