Christopher Nkunku inspired RB Leipzig to a 6-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Matchday 6. - © Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Christopher Nkunku inspired RB Leipzig to a 6-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Matchday 6. - © Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
bundesliga

Christopher Nkunku: Matchday 6’s Man of the Matchday sparking RB Leipzig's resurgence

After announcing himself on the European scene with a hat-trick against Manchester City, Christopher Nkunku added further gloss to his shining reputation on Saturday with two goals and an assist as RB Leipzig hit Hertha Berlin for six at the Red Bull Arena.

It has been quite a fortnight for Nkunku, who is emerging as a true leader in Jesse Marsch's team.

Under Marsch, Nkunku has been given – quite literally – a wider berth. The added freedom of operating in predominantly less congested areas of the field have allowed the 23-year-old more time on the ball, and the result has been devastating.

"I've always been a really quick player and that comes more to the fore in our new playing style," Nkunku told Germany's Bild newspaper.

Watch: Leipzig hit Hertha for six - 60-second highlights

Although Leipzig were beaten 6-3 by Pep Guardiola's City, Nkunku ensured he took most of the headlines in the first round of UEFA Champions League fixtures of the new season with the first hat-trick of his career.

That made him only the fourth player in the history of the Champions League to score three goals and still end up on the losing side, after Ronaldo for Real Madrid against Manchester United, Gareth Bale for Tottenham against Inter Milan and – last season against Leipzig – Irfan Can Kahveci for Istanbul Basaksehir.

Two of those goals were headers. The last time he scored a header was three seasons ago, during his Paris Saint-Germain days, yet his whole game has improved considerably, and he is using his head for much more than scoring goals.

Christopher Nkunku took the Champions League by storm on Matchday 1 with a hat-trick against Manchester City. - imago

On Saturday, he timed his run to beat the offside trap before keeping a cool head to dink a delightful shot past Alexander Schwolow to give Leipzig the lead. He then showed masterful vision and composure to tee up Yussuf Poulsen with a delightful assist for the second.

Nkunku also earned a penalty after Poulsen returned the favour and put him through on goal, with Emil Forsberg slotting the ball home from the spot, before putting the icing on the proverbial cake with a marvellous curling free-kick to make it five.

Two goals, one assist and one penalty earned – effectively another assist for the Frenchman, who was particularly pleased with another good day at the office.

"It's not so surprising that things are going so well for me in front of goal right now because I've put a lot of hard work in," he said. "At the end of the day, I'm working very hard for it – not just me, but all of the lads are working really hard."

Nkunku's 11 passes leading to a shot is the third highest amount in the Bundesliga so far, while he also ranks third league-wide in the number of sprints (158) and is the third most-fouled player in the league - underlining once again how his opponents are singling him out for particular attention, though his own attention has already shifted to his and Leipzig's next challenge.

"We're really pleased with the win, but now this game's behind us and we're preparing for Brugge because we want to keep things going there," he added. "This was a great team performance."

Leipzig face Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday needing a similar result to bounce back from that opening defeat in Manchester, but with Nkunku in this kind of form, and an exciting edge to the way they played at the weekend, the prospects are positive.

"It was a real step in the right direction, but we're not done yet," said Marsch on Saturday. "We've still got a lot to do, but today was a good day. It was important because we need results and this was a reward for our efforts."

Success breeds confidence and Saturday's Nkunku-inspired win could not have come at a better time.

Defeats to Wolfsburg, Bayern and City were followed by a draw with Cologne. Heading into the Hertha clash, Leipzig were languishing in 12th with just one win and one draw all season.

"We've given the right answer on the pitch," said Forsberg. "The last few weeks were not so easy, but we showed today that we're enjoying our football and, above all, we won it for our fans. The attitude, passion and mentality of the team is spot on and we just need good results. We got one today and we want to kick on from this.

"It's that bit easier with our fans behind us and it makes it even nice to gift them a victory, so today was a perfect day."

Perfect for Leipzig, and perfect for their man of the moment, Christopher Nkunku.