Nunez strikes first in battle with Haaland

01 Aug, 2022 - 00:08 0 Views
Nunez strikes first in battle with Haaland

The Herald

LONDON. — The season-opening Community Shield between Liverpool and Manchester City was billed as a battle of two new strikers – and there was no doubting who came out on top on Saturday. Reds supporters have a new hero in Darwin Nunez, who immediately showed what prompted the club to pay Benfica £64m with a debut to remember.

The Uruguay international started as a substitute but won a late penalty which Mohamed Salah converted to put Liverpool 2-1 up, then scored his first competitive goal for the club to “put the icing on the cake” of his performance.

At the other end of the pitch, Erling Haaland had a first game to forget as the Norwegian missed opportunities in front of goal which contributed to his side’s 3-1 defeat.

Asked by BBC Sport if he had any worries about the £52.2m forward’s performance, City boss Pep Guardiola said: “No. He has incredible quality and he will do it. He has an incredible sense. “The team was good in stages and I am very comfortable with what we have seen in pre-season. The season starts now.”

Liverpool won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup last season as they fell short in their quest for an unprecedented quadruple.

Sadio Mane, who was instrumental alongside Salah and Roberto Firmino in the club’s recent trophy successes, left in the summer to join Bayern Munich.

And Nunez was brought in as the Senegal international’s replacement, having impressed by scoring against the Reds in the knockout stage of the Champions League last season.

In pre-season, there were social media jibes – which manager Jurgen Klopp described as “a joke” – about the player’s first touch, but the 23-year-old emphatically shot down any doubters by scoring four goals in the friendly against RB Leipzig.

And he made the dream start to life in England by coming off the bench to head in his team’s third goal at the King Power Stadium.

Nunez’s close-range finish came right in front of the Reds fans and he was serenaded with the chanting of his name as he wheeled away to celebrate.

Just as Klopp was being asked about Nunez’s impact, a replay of the goal came up on a television screen and the German pointed and smiled, before replying: “Good, very good and he will get better with time.

“When he came on, we passed each ball for him to chase it. He dealt with it brilliantly. We are patient and we know he can do good stuff. His impact today from the bench was exceptional, as with everyone who came on.”

Nunez had an opportunity just five minutes after entering the action but his shot was saved by Ederson, and he was instrumental for the second goal as his header hit Ruben Dias on the arm and Salah converted the penalty.

After Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy with his customary jig, Nunez led the celebrations by popping a bottle of champagne and spraying it in the air.

“We all know strikers are a special species,” added Klopp. “Everyone needs positives and for a striker that is goals and goal involvement.

“Darwin would have been fine without scoring the third one because the penalty came from his header, and the chance he had before where he reacted brilliantly.

“He put the icing on the cake and I’m really pleased for him. You could see on everyone’s faces how happy they are and that is a really good sign.” — BBC Sport.

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