Manchester City vs RB Leipzig. UEFA Champions League Group A.
Champions League match report as Pep Guardiola's team set out on their journey to win Europe's premier prize for the first time; Christopher Nkunku fires hat-trick for RB Leipzig but it wasn't enough as City run riot
Thursday 16 September 2021 08:00, UK
Jack Grealish marked his Champions League debut with a goal and an assist as Manchester City beat RB Leipzig 6-3 in an entertaining encounter.
Pep Guardiola's side made the perfect start to their Group A campaign as Grealish crossed for Nathan Ake to head home (16) before Nordi Mukiele scored an own goal (28) from a superb Kevin De Bruyne centre.
Christopher Nkunku, who netted a hat-trick on the night, scored the first of his three just before the break (42) but a Riyad Mahrez penalty (45+1) restored the two-goal cushion. Nkunku headed home (51) to make things interesting but a spectacular Grealish finish five minutes later kept Leipzig at arm's length.
The Germans, who have lost three of their four Bundesliga matches this season, kept attacking in brave fashion and Nkunku fired home his hat-trick to bring them back within one goal.
There was no panic from City though as Joao Cancelo curled home a beautiful effort just 82 seconds later. Former City left-back Angelino was dismissed with 11 minutes left and Gabriel Jesus put further gloss to the scoreline (85).
City sit top of Group A after the opening fixtures as PSG were surprisingly held 1-1 by Club Brugge.
Man City: Ederson (6), Cancelo (8), Dias (6), Aké (6), Zinchenko (6), Rodri (6), Bernardo (7), De Bruyne (8), Mahrez (7), Torres (7), Grealish (8)
Subs: Gundogan (6), Jesus (7), Foden (6)
RB Leipzig: Gulácsi (5), Mukiele (6), Klostermann (5), Orban (5), Angeliño (5), Laimer (7), Adams (6), Nkunku (8), Olmo (7), Forsberg (7), Silva (7)
Subs: Haidara (6), Poulsen (7), Szoboszlai (7), Brobbley (6)
Man of the match: Joao Cancelo
City were slow starters in their first Champions League encounter since losing last season's final to Chelsea but scored with their first attempt on goal.
Ake went some way to justifying his selection by claiming the opening goal after 16 minutes with a powerful header full of desire following a Grealish corner.
It wasn't vintage City from an attacking point of view but they were gifted their second on 28 minutes. De Bruyne, making his first start of the season, found space on the right and whipped in a low, bouncing cross that was completely misjudged by Mukiele, who completely wrongfooted the 'keeper as he attempted to head back to him.
Leipzig were not overawed by falling two behind and continued to press forward in good numbers.
Pep Guardiola welcomed back Kevin De Bruyne into the first-team fold for the first time this season. Nathan Ake replaced Aymeric Laporte at the back whilst Oleksandr Zinchenko came in at left-back. Riyad Mahrez was preferred to Gabriel Jesus and fit again Phil Foden was among the substitutes.
Their reward came with a reply on 42 minutes as Emil Forsberg picked out Mukiele with a deep cross. Redeeming himself a little following his earlier error, Mukiele headed back across goal for Nkunku to turn past Ederson.
City responded instantly, although there was an element of controversy over their penalty after VAR adjudged Lukas Klostermann to have handled a Ferran Torres header at point-blank range.
Mahrez swept the penalty into the top corner.
The pattern of the game remained very end-to-end in the second half as Leipzig again reduced the arrears six minutes into the second half. De Bruyne collided with the referee as the German side attacked but play continued and Nkunku headed his second from a Dani Olmo cross.
Then came Grealish's big moment as he raced onto a long ball from deep to cut inside from the left to curl a fine shot beyond Peter Gulacsi.
Leipzig still kept swinging punches towards City and Nkunku created a bit of history for himself when getting behind the City defence and firing a low shot across Ederson to make it 4-3.
Any threats of a comeback were dashed instantly by City though.
This time Cancelo was the man on target as he lashed a shot into the roof of the net from 25 yards.
Cancelo was in the thick of the action again moments later, this time being felled by a wild challenge from Angelino. The Spaniard was shown his second yellow card and given his marching orders.
And, City's goal difference got an added boost with five minutes remaining when Jesus wrapped up the scoring, lashing in from a tight angle after Ruben Dias had poked an effort off target.
Grealish speaking to BT Sport:
"I loved it. I couldn't wait for it. It was one of those games that had absolutely everything. We're obviously delighted to get the win against a good team, full of energy. To come away with the three points but also a goal and an assist, I'm delighted personally.
"When I'm in that position off the left-hand side running into the opposition area, I'd back myself one-on-one against anyone to have a go and this time it paid off.
"As soon as the game kicked off, I actually thought to myself, 'I've played in the Champions League now!'. The music and everything was so nice and the game topped it all off."
Pep Guardiola said: "I'm delighted and happy and thankful for these incredible players. It was a real tough game.
"Leipzig play like all or nothing. They are able to create chances and they attack you so much. You cannot defend spaces inside. It is so difficult and they did well.
"But the first game at home is so important to win. We scored a lot of goals and in the last three games we have scored 16.
"For the fans that is nice to give them. Now we rest and think of Southampton."
September 28: PSG (A) - kick-off 8pm
October 19: Club Brugge (A) - kick-off 5.45pm
November 3: Club Brugge (H) - kick-off 8pm
November 24: PSG (H) - kick-off 8pm
December 7: RB Leipzig (A) - kick-off 5.45pm
Manchester City are back in action at 3pm on Saturday with a home fixture with Southampton. Meanwhile, RB Leipzig will look to turn their poor domestic form around away at Cologne, live on Sky Sports Football.