With supporters back at the Etihad Stadium for a European tie for the first time since November 2019, Pep Guardiola’s men recorded a remarkable 6-3 victory to become the quickest English team to reach 50 wins the competition.
City were made to work hard for the three points against a Leipzig side who played with the energy for which they are famed, but the hosts were good value for the win.
Ake broke the deadlock with a towering header from a Grealish corner before a mix-up up between visiting goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi and Nordi Mukiele allowed City to extend our advantage.
With Grealish lurking at the far post as the returning Kevin De Bruyne delivered a trademark teasing cross from deep on the right, Gulacsi moved across his line to cover the angle only for the centre-back to head the ball back across goal and into the net.
Mukiele made amends for his error by providing the assist from which Christopher Nkunku finished off a well worked team move with a six-yard header, but the home side’s two goal lead was restored before half-time when Riyad Mahrez netted from the penalty spot after Lukas Kolstermann was penalised for handball.
Though City looked fairly comfortable, we were unable to shake Jesse Marsch's side off and Nkunku reduced the deficit once more when he arrived unmarked to head Dani Olmo’s cross past Ederson, whilst De Bruyne appeared to have gone down with injury.
Guardiola’s men hit back immediately as Grealish capped a fine performance with a stunning goal on his Champions League debut.
Collecting Ruben Dias’ clearance out wide on the left, our No.10 weaved inside before curling a sumptuous effort into the far corner to the delight of the home crowd, but still the visitors came back again as Nkunku latched onto Yussuf Poulsen’s slide rule pass and fired across Ederson for his hat-trick.
It looked like we might be set for a tense finale, but City’s response was again instantaneous as Joao Cancelo scored the pick of the goals with a brilliant 25-yard effort that gave Gulacsi no chance.
Former City defender Angelino was sent off for a second bookable offence following a foul on the right-back before Gabriel Jesus tapped in at the far post to make it 6-3, marking his 200th appearance for the Club with a goal.
With club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero departing in the summer, City’s attacking options had been the subject of much discussion before the new season got under way.
Jesus remains the only recognised striker at the Club, but as Guardiola proved last season, his team carries a goal threat from all over the pitch.
This was the third consecutive game in which we had scored five goals and we have now netted an incredible 17 goals in our previous four matches.
Guardiola had spoken of the importance of making a strong start in the Champions League and his players certainly delivered.
Whilst Leipzig carried a threat on the counter, we created countless opportunities, with Mahrez, De Bruyne and Grealish all going close, whilst Ferran Torres saw a goal ruled out for offside after City carved the visitors open with some incisive attacking play.
The defending Premier League champions have won four games in a row in all competitions and this victory provides a perfect platform ahead of the trip to Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the month.
The victory aside, De Bruyne completing 70 minutes on his first start of the season and Phil Foden making his return from injury with a 20-minute cameo will rank highly on the list of positives for Guardiola.
It was a fleeting display for the Academy graduate, a chance to get minutes under his belt and his impact will be greater in the weeks to follow, but his Belgian team-mate seems ready to hit the ground running after a three-match injury absence.
De Bruyne, who received a vociferous reception from the home crowd, was typically influential, with his cross from which Mukiele turned into his own net a reminder of how deadly his deliveries can be.
On another day he might have scored himself, with a free-kick which evaded everyone flashing just wide of the post, whilst he also misfired from a promising position on the edge of the area after Grealish and Torres combined in a slick counter-attack.
Pep Guardiola reaction:
"I am delighted and happy and thank you to these incredible players we have.
"It was a really tough game. They are able to create chances, they attack you in the build-up and they defend the spaces inside really well.
"The first game at home it was important to win and we scored six goals.
"Seventeen goals in the last four games is nice to give to them. Now we rest and prepare for Southampton."
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jack Grealish
There were a few worthy contenders for this award, with Cancelo and De Bruyne both impressing, but they're edged out by the man who delivered a goal and assist during a memorable Champions League debut.
Grealish looked lively throughout, causing the visitors countless problems and evidencing how effective he is as a ball carrier.
He sent an early opportunity straight at Gulacsi, but made no mistake after the break with a goal that will no doubt live long in the memory.
Upon signing for City he spoke of how he had longed to be involved in these Champions League nights and this was a performance befitting of such a stage.
- In 29 UEFA Champions League starts for City and Leicester City, Mahrez has been involved in 23 goals (11 goals, 12 assists) and since the start of 2018-19, only Raheem Sterling (19) has been involved in more Champions League goals for the Club than Mahrez (7 goals, 10 assists).
- Grealish is the first Englishman to both score and assist on his Champions League debut since Wayne Rooney versus Fenerbahce in September 2004.
What it means
With Paris Saint-Germain and Club Brugge playing out a 1-1 draw in the other game in Group A, this victory means City sit top after the opening round of fixtures.
City return to Premier League action on Saturday 18 September, when Southampton visit the Etihad Stadium.
Kick-off is at 15:00 (UK) and we’ll have live coverage in our Matchday Centre, which includes our Matchday Live show.
LEIPZIG: Gulacsi (C), Klostermann, Orban, Mukiele, Angelino, Laimer (Haidara 59'), Adams, Olmo (Brobbey 72'), Forsberg (Szoboszlai 59'), Nkunku (Gvardiol 81'), Silva (Poulsen 59').
SUBS: Martinez, Simakan, Moriba, Henrichs, Kampl.
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