Football News

“He opened things up for us” – Jurgen Klopp hails new boy Darwin Nunez in Community Shield win

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:54, 30 July 2022

Liverpool lifted the first piece of silverware this season after running out 3-1 winners against Manchester City in their FA Community Shield showdown at the King Power Stadium this Saturday afternoon.

The official curtain-raiser looked destined for penalties before City skipper Ruben Dias committed the cardinal sin of handling in the penalty area. Mohamed Salah’s uncharacteristic right-footed cross was met by new boy Darwin Nunez’s head but it couldn’t reach Ederson’s goal as it was illegally blocked. Salah — who penned a new bumper deal to stay at Anfield this summer — took responsibility to restore Liverpool’s lead which he duly performed.

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Liverpool 0.02% 750/1
Tottenham 0% 750/1
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Trent Alexander-Arnold had given the Reds an early lead, Salah with the assist, before City’s second half substitute Julián Álvarez cancelled it out. The young Argentine marksman wasn’t the only new face in Leicester today with the aforementioned Nunez rounding off Liverpool’s win thus becoming the fourth player to score on his debut for Liverpool under head coach Jurgen Klopp, after Sadio Mane, Salah and Virgil van Dijk. Victory also ensured Klopp completed the domestic set of trophies. Even though both managers have stated the forthcoming Premier League title will be contested between at least five to six clubs the feeling coming from many observers is we’ll be witnessing another two-horse battle.

It was yet another illustration of Salah’s importance and difference-making ability in these games. Pre-season friendly or not you can expect the Egyptian forward to menace defenders up and down England’s top division. On this showing the loss of Sadio Mane hasn’t been felt but keeping Salah would cushion any such blow. Retaining his services felt like the club’s most successful piece of business heading into the 2022/23 campaign with Nunez’s acquisition not that far behind.

“Nunez is good. But today we played the smarter passes. We said he needs balls from the sides after the first two games [of pre-season]. Today we saw he was involved in every situation of the second half. He opened things up for us, we could use the spaces, and he was there in the finishing moments. He had a good game,” Klopp said in his post-match interview. His sentiments were echoed online by Peter Crouch and Gary Lineker.

Naturally this game was being sold as the first showdown between Liverpool talisman Salah and his City counterpart Erling Haaland even though he’s been training under Pep Guardiola for what feels like a cup of coffee. That being said, Haaland’s reputation precedes itself and given the nature of modern sports discourse there will be some unfair (often in bad faith) conclusions being drawn. He was nowhere close to being his best, even missing a few great chances, but it takes a while settling in a new environment. Haaland could very well have the last laugh.

“I’d be encouraged by what I saw today from Haaland. We know what he’s all about. OK, he missed one or two chances, but his movement to get those chances was encouraging,” former Manchester United captain Roy Keane told ITV. “There was a lot of hype around him and maybe today will humble him a little bit. But there is no doubt in my mind that with his movement this kid will score a bag of goals for Manchester City.”

But today was Salah’s day, at the third time of asking he netted a Community Shield goal subsequently bringing his overall record against City to eight goals across 15 games in all competitions, as the celebrations die down Liverpool will know that since the Premier League’s inception exactly three decades ago, only eight Community Shield winners have gone on to become English champions (City were the last in 2018/19).

Klopp, though, will be out to change that and from what’s seen there are some encouraging signs. “I was happy with the starting line-up and how we started the game, but then I have to say that all subs made a real difference. They were really in the game, and I loved that. The thing I learned today was that the boys are ready. That was good.”