The Warmdown: City bulldoze past Leipzig in 9-goal thriller
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Jack Grealish of Manchester City celebrates after scoring their side's fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and RB Leipzig at Etihad Stadium on September 15, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
  • Story of the match

Manchester City's opening game to this year's UEFA Champions League started with a bang. 

Nathan Aké became Man City's tenth player to score this season in all competitions, only five games into the campaign, with a bullet header. Not only was it an important goal for the Dutchman, Jack Grealish opened his goal contributions in his first European game with the assist.

Just before the half-hour mark, City doubled their lead as a wicked Kevin De Bruyne cross left a struggling Nordi Mukiele at the back post, who could only divert a header back for an own goal.

Christopher Nkunku halved the deficit for the away side before Riyad Mahrez tucked away a penalty moments later, cancelling out RB Leipzig's first-half efforts.

Nkunku bagged his hat-trick in the second half, the second being another powerful header and then squeezing a shot in from a tight angle.

Two stunners from Grealish and Joao Cancelo pulled the rug out from underneath Leipzig, though. The Englishman turned from provider to goalscorer as the winger was allowed to cut in on his right foot and curl a beautiful effort into the top corner, with Cancelo sending a missile past Péter Gulácsi.

A red card for Angeliño was punished further as substitute Gabriel Jesus got himself on the scoresheet with a fine finish into the roof of the net from close range.

A showcase of talent from both sides on a gorgeous Champions League night.

  • A dream night in Europe

One goal, one assist. Not bad for a first game in Europe, is it?

City's £100million man lived his dream last night. 

"As soon as the game kicked off, I just thought in my head: ‘I’ve actually played in the Champions League now’,” said the fifth different goalscorer on the night.

"I’ve been waiting a while,” he added, “and over the past few days and weeks I just couldn’t wait for this game in particular.”

Embed from Getty Images

Grealish got off the mark in a sky blue shirt on his home debut against Norwich City, before assisting in City's 5-0 demolition of Arsenal. This was clearly enough to build his confidence and was able to fulfil his dream of playing in the Champions League, let alone scoring AND assisting in his first.

  • Nkunku

Nkunku is the first Leipzig player to score a Champions League hat-trick. To add to that stat, the only other player to ever score a hat-trick against Manchester City in the competition is Lionel Messi (October 2016).

Embed from Getty Images

The midfielder made his way up the Paris Saint Germain youth ladder but was never really able to make his mark on the French giants.

He then switched to the German top division where he currently has 16 goals and 28 assists in 90 games in all competitions. More minutes on the pitch has undoubtedly improved his development and the 23-year-old is catching the eyes on club football's biggest stage.

His 2019/20 season will be a tough one to live up to, with 15 assists in 32 Bundesliga games. A Champions League hat-trick is not a bad way to start, however.

With PSG mentioned before, Man City next opponents in the group stage are the French side. Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar. If Nkunku can grab three goals, what can these superstars do?

  • Proving many fans wrong

Aké has been somewhat of a forgotten man at City, or even an unwanted one.

The defender showed just why Pep Guardiola stole him from relegated AFC Bournemouth in 2020.

It has been a tough couple of years for the player. In and out of the squad, tagged as "not good enough" by some Citizens, mistakes when he did play which rocked his confidence.

Having only played 16 games for City since moving to the Manchester club, eyebrows were raised when the teamsheets came out. With John Stones and Aymeric Laporte unavailable, it was time for someone to step up.

And what a night to prove the naysayers wrong.

Embed from Getty Images

Last night meant a lot more to Aké than anyone realised, however.

Moments after firing in the opener last night, Aké's father passed away following an illness, and he took to social media this morning to reveal the sad news.

Aké said in the post, "Maybe it was meant to be, watching me play always made him proud and happy."

What a performance to be proud of. We are all behind you.

Our thoughts are with you, Nathan.