Manchester City got their Champions League campaign underway with a 6-3 win over a 10-man RB Leipzig in a hugely entertaining goal fest at the Etihad.
After a relatively even and quiet opening spell, Man City would take the lead in the 16th minute as Nathan Ake found himself with the freedom of east Manchester from a Jack Grealish corner as the Dutchman thundered a header in off the underside of the bar to open the scoring.
The Blues would double their lead in somewhat comical circumstances just before the half-hour mark, Kevin de Bruyne picking the ball up in his favourite inside-right position, advancing towards the area and playing a sumptuous ball into the direction of Grealish at the back post. Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele intercepted the cross, but instead of sending it behind for a corner, he attempted to cushion a header back to his goalkeeper, only to see the ball agonisingly evade Peter Gulasci and dribble into the back of the net.
Leipzig started to grow into the game as the half wore on and pulled a goal back three minutes before the interval as Dani Olmo stood a ball up towards the back post to Mukiele, who headed it back in the mixer where Christopher Nkunku reacted quickly to nod home.
In what would become a pattern in the game, City quickly restored their two-goal advantage as Leipzig’s Lukas Klostermann was penalised for a handball in the box – the German knowing little about it as the ball hit his outstretched arm – with Riyad Mahrez stepping up and smashing the resulting penalty into the top corner.
Leipzig would cut the deficit once more just six minutes into the second period, Dani Olmo not being closed down as he strode out of midfield, the Spaniard clipping another perfectly weighted ball into the box as Nkunku heading home his second of the evening.
City added their fourth just four minutes later, Grealish picking up the ball wide on the left following a Ruben Dias clearance before the £100 million man was afforded way too much time and space to drive into the area, cut in onto his favoured right foot and curl a fine effort beyond the Hungarian number 1.
“Class from the £100m man!”
Jack Grealish has his first Champions League goal, and it’s a little bit special 🤩#UCL pic.twitter.com/89YZ2jbYsp
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 15, 2021
The scoring wasn’t finished there though as Nkunku became the first Leipzig player to net a Champions League hat-trick as he drilled past Ederson from a narrowing angle, only for Joao Cancelo to restore the two-goal advantage again within two minutes as the Portuguese unleashed a thunderous strike from outside the area.
Former City full-back, Angelino, would see himself sent for an early bath after picking up a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Cancelo, before Gabriel Jesus added some gloss to the scoreline to make it six just minutes after being introduced from the bench.
The match marked Jack Grealish’s Champions League debut following his big-money move from Aston Villa this summer, and the 25-year-old was understandably excited as he capped the occasion with a fine goal and and assist.
“I loved it,” he told BT Sport. “I’ve been waiting a while. The past few weeks, I couldn’t wait for this game. It’s a great night.
“It was one of those games. It had absoutely everything. In the end we’re delighted to get the win against a good team full of energy and young players.
“I’m delighted to come away with the three points – and the goal and assist.”
Jack Grealish’s Champions League debut by numbers:
6 touches in the opp. box
6 duels won
3 fouls won
Made for it. #UCL pic.twitter.com/e17PldTD9o
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 15, 2021
Asked about his goal, he said: “The ball came to me and when I’m in that position, running into the area I’d back myself one on one against anyone to have a go and it paid off. I had a few in the first half that were blocked.
“I went to check the result from the other game [Club Bruges 1-1 PSG] and it shows anything can happen in the Champions League. It’s why it’s such a wonderful competition.
“With the music and everything [before the game] it was so nice.”
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