Wednesday, January 19

Jack Grealish calms Manchester City’s nerves in a nine-goal thriller in Leipzig | Champions League


All that matters is victory, of course, but this was a curious Manchester City display peppered with lax marks and concentration. Pep Guardiola’s team ended up returning an undefeated group match number 18, 14 wins in a row, but will surely reprimand their charges for the sloppy fare they produced.

With Paris Saint-German next, City cannot afford a repeat against Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and company, who will surely see the movie of this and smell blood. Guardiola’s men were able to react every time they conceded here, but it will surely be more difficult for them to do so against the aristocrats of Mauricio Pochettino.

The results of City’s opening group match recorded five wins, four losses and a draw with just one of the setbacks under Guardiola – a 1-0 loss to Lyon, in 2018, although the coach served a penalty from the line. of band, reason why his assistant, Mikel Arteta, was in load during the 90 minutes.

There seemed little chance that City would suffer from trouble with RB Leipzig, whose uncertain start to the season included a lone win in four Bundesliga games. From a squad of the day that was missing John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, whose physical condition prevented them from training on Tuesday, Guardiola’s center-back pair was Nathan Aké and Rúben Dias, captain of the night, with Ferran Torres again as forward, Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish in support, with Kevin De Bruyne, returning from injury, the chief orchestrator.

After Guardiola urged his team to go “one step further” from last season’s losing final, an initial foray had De Bruyne and Torres teaming up before Peter Gulacsi picked up the cross from the former. Here the Spaniard matched the Belgian’s quick thinking in an instant return pass that caught De Bruyne by surprise and boded brightly for City. So was Grealish’s initial contribution as a Champions League rookie, the reverse twist to Torres oozing with the schemer’s cunning and had the 21st run cleared before being called offside.

Leipzig was already fighting for a decent ball and territory. A shot from Dani Olmo that was fired on was the “best” they could conjure, as City took the lead next. This was foreshadowed by a Mahrez ball that floated to the far post from the right. It was cleared for a corner – by Nordi Mukiele – Grealish pinged on the pitch and Aké got up to beat two defenders and Gulacsi with a powerful header.

The limit of Guardiola’s celebration was a soft punch, but a 20-minute lead will have enchanted him. So too, the hunger to instantly advance again, Mahrez once again ghost-like position to pull the trigger, this time in a curved effort that widened. Grealish’s next contributions were a Maria salute from a corner and a free kick from an already frustrated Christopher Nkunku. Excitement was about to permeate all of Leipzig when a hapless Mukiele led De Bruyne’s skidding delivery passing Gulacsi for City’s second.

To put it mildly: here was the last thing the Germans needed, and right now a serious beating seemed possible. Only one generally scarce element under Guardiola could allow them to return to competition: the complacency of their hosts.

Surprisingly, it was precisely this. As half-time approached, Olmo was allowed to make a pass to the left, Emile Forsberg lifted the center, Mukiele headed towards Nkunku and beat Ederson.

City, however, finished the half with almost total control. A Torres header hit Lukas Klostermann in the upper arm and after the VAR ordered Serdar Gozubuyuk to consult the pitch monitor, the referee awarded the penalty. Mahrez broke this for a 3-1 lead and the visitors were again remote contenders to take anything from the contest.

Calamity and charade almost overtook Gulacsi as he ran across the grass as Torres pounced on his goal, the goalkeeper finally managing to regain his balance and save the striker’s weak shot. Torres would soon regret this because at 50 minutes Nkunku had a second: while attempting to make a tackle, De Bruyne bumped into Gozubuyuk and thus Olmo was able to receive, and then pass between Dias and Aké too easily for Nkunku to score from new.

This was an alarming defense and made Jesse Marsch believe that his team could prosper. Who could blame him? City had conceded two loose goals and there was a puff of surprise.

Grealish, however, had another idea and this was to illustrate why it cost £ 100 million. Picking up left, a shoulder drop left Tyler Adams like a statue, before the broad man sped up and snuggled sweetly to make it 4-2.

Still, Guardiola remained preoccupied in his usual technical position in the area, giving an unadulterated joke to Mahrez that the Algerian had no choice but to accept.

City also had to swallow Nkunku by securing a hat-trick, hammering Yussuf Poulsen’s pass, to leave Guardiola in despair. However, this ding-dong affair had an eighth strike two minutes later, when a João Cancelo piledriver made it 5-3 at City.

Then a night rich in incidents had Angeliño, once from this parish, receiving a second yellow for which Leipzig sailed the last 10 minutes with a light player. And, in the end, the substitute, Gabriel Jesús had emphatically made the margin.


www.theguardian.com

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