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For large spells City were left frustrated by a stern Atleti, who were lining up in a 5-5-0 formation at times as they looked to come away from the Etihad Stadium with a clean sheet.
But the resistance was broken in the second half when Kevin De Bruyne found the net after fine work from Phil Foden, who had only entered the fray 80 seconds earlier.
Foden had a huge impact on the game but so too did Grealish, just in a different way.
Phil Foden makes this game look so easy.. 🔥— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 6, 2022
Atletico Madrid provided stubborn resistance - until Stockport's Finest entered the fray ✨
At the start of a huge run of games for Man City, #NoFilterUCL was there to witness the perfect start! 🔵 pic.twitter.com/mee78TdDyk
As we know by now the former Aston Villa man is a master in winning free-kicks and he did just that on Tuesday - having been fouled five times in a 20 minute cameo.
He was kicked all over the show by Los Rojiblancos, who completely lost their heads. Šime Vrsaljko was booked for a late foul on the England man, while Angel Correa received a yellow card for kicking the ball at Grealish.
That prompted a skirmish between both sets of players, with Pep Guardiola stepping in and holding Grealish back.
And late on Grealish still had Atleti on strings. Footage showed former City defender Stefan Savic looking absolutely livid, while Vrsaljko flicked Grealish's hair in stoppage time.
He was smiling and absolutely loving it the whole time, although Savic also appeared to look for another confrontation at the final whistle.
But Guardiola has told Grealish and his players to keep emotions in check for the second leg.
"We have to control our emotions and do what we have to do [in Madrid]," he said in his post-match presser.
"There will be a referee there in an incredible stadium, a good environment.
"Only when manager’s make substitutions is because it’s going a little bit bad and sometimes it doesn’t work and it worked. The guys were playing but we knew with Gabriel and Phil they had a special energy and Jack for the quality of keeping the ball. To be the manager was so special."
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