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Jack Grealish shines on Champions League debut

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It’s a footballing oddity that a player with the talent of Jack Grealish would make his Champions League debut at the ripe old age of 25.

He could fit so seamlessly into countless iconic teams and memories from recent seasons in Europe’s premier club competition; crossing for Origi, scoring a last-minute winner in Amsterdam, rounding Ederson. But of course he was never really there.

It was all eyes on Jack Grealish / Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that when his dreams finally became a reality on Wednesday night for Manchester City against RB Leipzig, Grealish looked like a seasoned European campaigner.

In what was an chaotic group stage opener at the Etihad, the England international kept his cool to produce two moments of individual quality that would prove crucial to the ludicrous 6-3 triumph.

His first came from a set piece, with Pep Guardiola continuing to entrust corners to the 25-year-old despite the return of Kevin De Bruyne. A peach of an in-swinger was met plumb by Nathan Ake, whose towering header had too much power for Peter Gulacsi in the Leipzig goal.

As you might expect of a typical Grealish masterclass, away from his key contributions his performance was characterised by testing dribbles, cute touches and drawing fouls, while never shirking his defensive responsibilities against a gung-ho opponent.

What his Champions League debut will be remembered for, though, was his wonderful individual goal ten minutes after the break.

Running onto Ruben Dias’ long ball in the left channel, with right-back Nordi Mukiele nowhere to be seen, the former Aston Villa man took a neat touch to play the ball into his own path before accelerating into the acres of space ahead of him.

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Finally confronted by a defender as he entered the penalty area, Grealish threw a trademark body swerve to cut inside two opponents and create an angle. With the score already 3-2 with just 55 minutes gone, Grealish could easily have had a rush of blood to the head at this point and succumbed to the chaos. Instead he showed both his class and experience beyond his years to produce a wonderful, cultured finish into the far corner.

Now, admittedly this is a goal that demonstrated that RB Leipzig – who are the embodiment of everything good and not so good about Bundesliga football with their lethal attack tempered by a leaky back line – were probably the ideal opponent for Grealish’s European bow.

But hey, let’s not take anything away from him.

This was a goal that caps not only a fine Champions League debut, but also Grealish’s meteoric rise to the very top of the English game in the past few seasons.

Just as was the case when he starred at the Euros in the summer, Grealish looks born for this stage. The strange thing is, that will come as a shock to absolutely no-one.





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