Man City 6-3 RB Leipzig: Beaten finalists start new Champions League campaign with win in nine-goal epic
It’s a scoreline usually reserved for tennis sets but the English champions and the German upstarts traded blows across the 90 minutes as if engaged in a rally fit for a Grand Slam.
A stunning solo effort from Jack Grealish and a long range strike from João Cancelo shone brightest from City’s six that also saw a calamitous own goal supplement strikes from Nathan Ake, Riyad Mahrez and Jesus.
Christopher Nkunku became the first Leipzig player to register a Champions League hat-trick but it was in vain as Pep Guardiola marked his 300th game as City boss with a comfortable victory.
The match began as many had predicted with City dominating the ball and Leipzig staying tight with a five man midfield coiled and ready to launch a counter against their opponent’s high line.
Kevin de Bruyne marked his return to the starting XI by splaying diagonals across the park as he set the tempo. But it was an unlikely source that set in motion the deluge of goals.
Nathan Ake was unmarked in the box as Grealish whipped in a corner from the right on 16 minutes. The Dutch defender isn’t the tallest but that didn’t matter as he got the run on two Leipzig players who were static by comparison. The powerful header was partially blocked but bulged the net regardless.
Eight minutes later and Nordi Mukiele earned himself a spot on a future bloopers video on YouTube. De Bruyne’s cross from the right was delivered with pace, but it bounced well in front of the Leipzig left back who had a City player breathing down his neck. Rather than head it out for a corner, which seemed a simple enough task, Mukiele stooped down and nudged it into his own goal off his head.
He made up for it just before the break as he turned provider for Nkunku’s first of the night. A neat clip to the back post was redirected into a dangerous area and the clinically finished off.
But the two goal cushion was restored just as referee Serdar Gozubuyuk was due to blow for half-time. A soft penalty was awarded for a hand ball and Mahrez blasted it into the top corner.
Nkunku headed in a second on 51 minutes and completed his hat-trick on 73 minutes by hammering one past Ederson from close range on the angle, but both goals were immediately proceeded by brilliant hits from City players.
First Grealish collected a long pass from Rodri and charged towards the box from the left. He cut inside onto his right foot and curled a sumptuous effort inside the far past. The £100 million man marked his first Champions League appearance in style.
Later, Cancelo gathered from 25 yards out, looked up, saw no other option and laced one into the top left corner across the ‘keeper.
Jesus completed the tennis score five minutes from time by hitting the roof of the net after the ball squirted towards him inside the area, but not before former City player Angelino was shown a second yellow for scything down Cancelo.
Shortly after City had scored their fourth BT cameras showed Guardiola haranguing Mahrez with a ferocious verbal volley. It is unclear what had drawn the ire of the Spaniard but both critics and fans will point to his meticulous nature as the cause.
No doubt he’ll be annoyed by the three goals conceded at home and will know that a stronger performance at the back will be required if he is to get the monkey off his back. But even a tactical zealot and obsessive tinkerer like Guardiola must have found joy in the madness of a Champions league tie that truly had it all.