Nunez trains with Liverpool ahead of Crystal Palace friendly
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Liverpool had a Darwin Nunez second-half masterclass to thank for inspiring them to a comfortable victory against RB Leipzig in their latest pre-season friendly clash on Thursday evening. Jurgen Klopp named a surprisingly strong team to face the Bundesliga heavyweights and the German manager’s big-hitters managed to get the job done with an encouraging display over the course of the 90 minutes.
Liverpool went in search of a fast start and managed to get one through Mohamed Salah, who finished calmly after he was played in by Roberto Firmino with a deft flick into space. The Merseyside giants dominated the ball for large parts of the contest but were tested on plenty of occasions by Leipzig, with the German side finding joy on the counter-attack as the interval approached.
Nunez went on to double Liverpool’s advantage from the penalty spot after half-time to register his first goal since joining Liverpool from Benfica earlier this summer. He scored again just moments later with a perfectly-struck effort to finish a swift attacking move before completing an impressive hat-trick by turning the ball home from close range under pressure.
The Uruguayan forward clinched a fourth with the last kick of the game to rubber-stamp a solid away win for the visitors against a high-level European opponent, but Klopp and his coaching team will undoubtedly be looking to fine-tune a handful of aspects on the training ground in advance of the new Premier League season.
Here’s what we learned from another comfortable pre-season win for Liverpool.
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Nunez has well and truly arrived
Nunez has been criticised for a number of simple misses over the course of Liverpool’s pre-season tour since his recent arrival from Benfica. The young striker was able to match his lofty expectations against Leipzig, though, by netting a brace inside seven minutes after being introduced as a substitute at half-time.
He managed to open his account for Liverpool by converting a spot-kick after Luis Diaz was felled with a heavy challenge inside the area. The forward’s second goal proved exactly why he could be one of English football’s most feared attackers over the next few years, with his low finish coming after a burst of electrifying speed to race clear of his marker.
Nunez went on to complete a brilliant hat-trick by sticking his leg out to poke home Harvey Elliott’s drilled cross shortly after the hour mark, before adding a fourth in the dying seconds with another well-placed effort. His arrival on Merseyside has arguably been overshadowed by Erling Haaland’s move to Manchester City in the grander scheme of things, but Nunez may well have the quality required to usurp the Norwegian as the Premier League’s best summer signing if things go well in his debut season with Liverpool.
Salah getting better with age
Mohamed Salah’s recent decision to extend his five-year stay at Liverpool could arguably be the club’s best bit of internal business over the last few years. The Egyptian magician led the charge for the Reds last season with 31 goals in all competitions and could match or even beat his tally at the next time of asking if his performance against Leipzig is anything to go by.
He ran the show from the very first whistle, finishing coolly into the bottom corner to hand Liverpool an early lead before making himself the focal point of his side’s attacking play as he so often does. He took up a slightly narrower role than usual and looked a real threat whenever he was on the ball, with his dazzling display evoking memories of his incredible form during the first half of the previous campaign.
Salah’s goals dried up as the season wound down to a close, though, and is widely expected to be pipped to this year’s Ballon d’Or by Karim Benzema as a result. However, it remains to be seen whether he will be able to replicate his early-season efforts over the course of an entire year when the competitive action finally gets back underway.
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Firmino can still be crucial
Roberto Firmino’s long-term future at Anfield has been called into question by fans and pundits alike over the course of this summer. The Brazilian ace has played a key role for the Reds in recent years but found himself kicking around on the bench for the vast majority of last season and only managed to chip in with five Premier League goals.
He showed flashes of his old self against Leipzig, though, as he played the false-nine role with as much expertise as you would expect from a player of his calibre. Firmino was heavily involved in setting up Salah for Liverpool’s early goal, made a number of tricky runs to ask questions of Leipzig’s defenders and won plenty of fouls in the opposing half by making a nuisance of himself with the ball at feet.
The arrival of Darwin Nunez will almost certainly see Firmino resigned to a second-choice berth once again when the new Premier League campaign gets underway. However, it seems as though he is still able to provide a healthy injection of the trophy-winning quality that helped Liverpool to secure their domestic and European titles during Firmino’s time on Merseyside.
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Defensive errors need stamping out
Liverpool managed to secure a comfortable victory against Leipzig but will be hoping to improve things at the back in advance of the upcoming Premier League season. There were a couple of questionable moments in defence for the Reds, especially in the first half, as Leipzig managed to break through on goal on a number of occasions.
A back four consisting of Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate and Trent Alexander-Arnold is enough to strike fear into the hearts of any elite-level side on the planet, but Leipzig were still able to counter with regularity as the match approached the interval. Liverpool got away with one as the ball scrambled around inside the area on the half-hour mark before Adrian pulled off a strong save to deny Leipzig an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Liverpool only conceded 26 goals in the Premier League last season and will be fully expecting to perform to a similar level when the domestic action resumes in early August. Improvements may need to be made to stand a greater chance of shutting out better teams than Leipzig on the biggest stages, though, based on the errors that cropped up against their German opponents on Thursday.
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