Moment Of Madness From Darwin Nunez As Liverpool Fall To Another Draw
Liverpool’s first Premier League game back at Anfield this season ended in a 1-1 draw, with an impressive defensive display from Crystal Palace being enough for them to secure a point.
After Joel Matip sustained an injury to the groin in a training session, many expected centre back Joe Gomez to come into defence for The Reds, with the Englishman also recently signing a new long term contract to the club. It was in fact Nathaniel Philips, who hasn’t started a Premier League game since May 2021, that was picked by Jurgen Klopp to partner Virgil Van Dijk in defence. Elsewhere, Naby Keita and Kostas Tsimikas returned to Liverpool’s bench after recovering from illness and an injury respectively.
Darwin Nunez earnt his first start in the Premier League following an impressive substitute appearance against Fulham. Two changes in midfield were made by Klopp, with Harvey Elliott and James Milner replacing captain Jordan Henderson and the now injured Thiago Alcantara within the middle of the park.
Patrick Vieira meanwhile chose to tactically tweak his side, employing a different formation after The Eagles lost in their season opener to Arsenal. Vieira chose to employ a five man defence, with Joel Ward replacing Odsonne Eduoard in the starting line up. Palace deployed a midfield trio with Jordan Ayew and Wilfred Zaha leading the line, providing a dangerous threat on the counter attack. Vieira also had a boost in his attacking reinforcements, with superb talent Michael Olise returning to the bench after being ruled versus Arsenal through injury.
The Reds started off the game brightly, dominating possession and trapping Crystal Palace within their own half. Two minutes in, Trent-Alexander Arnold crossed the ball into the box, trying to find Darwin Nunez. The Uruguayan striker just missed getting his head on the ball with goalkeeper Vicente Guaita parrying the ball away into the feet of James Milner, who sent his shot wide.
They continued this intensity that had been missing in the first half against Fulham, with Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold repeatedly stretching the Palace formation, trying to find an opening. A superb cross from Alexander-Arnold fell to Darwin Nunez’s feet perfectly at around the 20 minute mark, but the striker took the chance awkwardly, volleying the ball into the crowd.
A few more chances followed, with Nunez and Salah linking up nicely, but ending with the Egyptian shooting just wide of the post, along with an ambitious Virgil Van Dijk chance from 30 yards out.
After such domination for 30 minutes, Eberechi Eze spun away from a weak Fabinho tackle, before releasing Wilfred Zaha who had found space behind the out-of-place Nat Phillips. Zaha was able to beat Alisson superbly, angling and timing his shot to perfection, sending it into the bottom right corner. The roar from the travelling Eagles was thunderous, and the Liverpool players looked at each other in disbelief.
Just before the first half whistle, debutant Darwin Nunez had a golden chance in front of goal, but he didn’t catch it well and his effort deflected off the post. Van Dijk tried to follow up with an effort but he tripped over his own feet.
The Reds did not start the second half with the intensity that they accumulated in the first 45 minutes and Liverpool began to play like a team who were out of ideas. Anfield became tense and the downbeat atmosphere from the crowd signified that.
In the 56th minute, the intensity escalated, but not for the reasons the Anfield faithful would have liked. After battling with Palace defender Joachim Andersen to gain possession of the ball, Darwin Nunez became enraged and had a moment of madness. That is the only way to describe his horrific actions. The Uruguayan raised his head backwards to try and make contact with Andersen's head whilst the Palace defender was behind him.
When Andersen shouted at him after he had backed away from the striker, Nunez aggressively headbutted him, making contact with his nose. His first competitive start and his debut in front of the Anfield home crowd will now be forever characterised by his unneeded aggressive actions. Nunez was shown the red card by referee Paul Tierney, and will now face a 3 match ban. The striker will miss Manchester United (A), Bournemouth (H) and Newcastle (H).
The one thing Nunez’s headbutting did achieve was firing up the Anfield crowd. The Anfield faithful suddenly came alive, roaring their team forward and making amends for the actions of the Uruguayan. A moment of brilliance from Luis Diaz, who dribbled past four players before launching the ball into the back of the net, helped The Reds rescue a point. Liverpool were not able to find a second goal to win the match, with efforts from Salah and Carvalho flying just off target.
Crystal Palace should have won the match in the 78th minute, when a cross from Doucoure landed at Zaha’s feet in the penalty box. Unmarked, Crystal Palace’s starman hit the post from unbelievably close range. The match ultimately ended in a stalemate, with Liverpool once again failing to win after their disappointing opening day against Fulham.
Jurgen Klopp after the game defended his team’s efforts in the first half. “Of course we wanted to finish the situation off but I think we did extremely well…. seven or eight shots in the first half already. That’s a special number so we were obviously on the right path and if we carry on like this it was a matter of time.” When asked about Darwin Nunez’s red card, Klopp condemned the new signing’s conduct. “Yes, it is a red card. Wrong reaction. Andersen wanted that, I would say, and he got it. But he made a mistake, Darwin, so of course we will talk about it.”
Patrick Vieira meanwhile was pleased with his side’s performance, emphasising that it was his side’s hard work out of possession that earnt The Eagles a point at Anfield. “When you look at Jordan Ayew, Ebs and Wilf, they ran a lot today behind the ball. What I’m really glad and happy about is that those players who like to have the ball at their feet didn’t show any frustration at any point today.” When asked about the result in general, Vieira stated that he was “Of course with the point, but even more with the quality that we showed today. We showed some sides of the game that we need to show more often.”