It’s RB Leipzig v Manchester City tonight (22 February 2023) in the Champions League. The first time these two sides met competitively came on 15 September 2021 at the Etihad Stadium in the competition’s group stage (Group A). It was Pep Guardiola’s 300th game as manager and City achieved a 6-3 victory which meant that the Blues became the quickest English team to achieve 50 wins in the Champions League. Nice work!
Nathan Ake opened the scoring with a powerful header in the 16th minute, becoming the tenth different City player to score that season. The lead was increased twelve minutes later when Nordi Mukiele scored what was described by the BBC as a ‘calamitous own goal… The France defender got his angles horribly wrong as his attempted header back to his keeper following Kevin de Bruyne’s delivery ended up in the net.’
Nkunku scored for Leipzig three minutes before half time but City restored their two goal lead by half time with Riyad Mahrez netting a penalty (45+2) awarded after Lukas Klostermann handled.
Leipzig’s Nkunku headed home his second to reduce the deficit six minutes after the restart, but City hit back five minutes later as Jack Grealish scored with a delightful finish on his Champions League debut. Afterwards he commented about the whole experience: ‘I loved it. I’ve been waiting a while. The past few weeks, I couldn’t wait for this game. It’s a great night.’
Talking about the goal Grealish 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.’
Former Paris St-Germain player Nkunku scored again (73rd minute) to complete his hat-trick, but Joao Cancelo added a stunning 25 yard effort for City two minutes later. The former City player Angelino was dismissed for a second bookable offence four minutes later and then substitute Gabriel Jesus tapped in at the far post to make it six for City with only five minutes of normal time remaining.
The match ended 6-3 but in truth City’s victory was much more convincing than the three conceded goals suggest. Grealish loved the whole experience of his first Champions League match: ‘It was one of those games. It had absolutely 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… 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.’
Leipzig’s hat-trick scorer Christopher Nkunku was not as positive as Grealish however: ‘Every mistake was punished. We made a lot of individual errors. I scored three goals but every time they scored again right away. We needed to show more concentration. We knew the quality Manchester City have.’
For City boss Pep Guardiola there was disappointment that three goals had been conceded and he admitted: ‘Leipzig never give up. They have a special way to attack. They play all or nothing. You never have the feeling it’s over. We scored a few minutes after they scored… and it helped us a lot. They have a young team, so aggressive, so strong. A fantastic team. Leipzig give a good message to football. The quality of the players was better today and that’s why we won.’