Darwin Núñez falls into Crystal Palace’s trap after being sent off for headbutting Joachim Andersen

Darwin Núñez falls into Crystal Palace’s trap after being sent off for headbutting Joachim Andersen

Darwin Nunez falls for Crystal Palace when Liverpool’s £85m signing is sent off for a stupid header to the jaw by Joachim Andersen… and the striker still doesn’t have the technical mastery of Roberto Firmino

  • Summer signing Darwin Nunez was sent off when Liverpool faced Crystal Palace
  • Palace undertook an aggressive game plan and Núñez fell into their trap
  • Núñez has quality but does not have the technical mastery of Roberto Firmino

Crystal Palace paid Darwin Nunez the compliment of coming up with an aggressive new game plan to stop him. Little could they have imagined how easily Liverpool’s much-hyped £85m striker would fall for their trap.

Núñez, making his first Liverpool start, lasted just a frustrating 57 minutes against Palace’s tough back five before the red mist descended to match his shirt.

Reacting to a shove on the back from Joachim Andersen, the 23-year-old Uruguayan stupidly leaned forward to head butt his foe in the jaw.

Darwin Núñez was sent off in his first Liverpool start for headbutting Joachim Andersen

Darwin Núñez was sent off in his first Liverpool start for headbutting Joachim Andersen

It wasn’t the kind of comparison to compatriot Luis Suarez that he wanted on his first appearance for Liverpool at Anfield and there was nothing referee Paul Tierney could do except send him for a walk of shame down the tunnel.

The collapse had also been coming. Having scored three goals in his first two appearances for Liverpool as a substitute, Nunez found his first start for Jurgen Klopp much more demanding with Palace’s five having three strong central defenders Joel Ward, Andersen and Marc Guehi smothering him for time and space. .

Palace had an aggressive game plan and Núñez fell into their trap when he charged Andersen

Palace had an aggressive game plan and Núñez fell into their trap when he charged Andersen

Unable to use his blistering speed, it became clear that Nunez does not yet have the technical or craftsmanship of Roberto Fimino, the centre-forward he is replacing.

And perhaps weighed down by the hype, when rare scoring opportunities came his way, Nunez squandered them.

An early cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold found him six yards from goal at the far post, but he misjudged the flight of the ball, twisted his body awkwardly and volleyed wide.

An even better opportunity was squandered on the stroke of half-time. Harvey Elliott saw Nunez ahead of his marker, full-back Nathaniel Clyne, but when the pass came, the forward lingered, allowing Clyne to get close and eventually making weak contact with his shot.

It was clear that Núñez still does not have the artisanal or technical mastery of Roberto Firmino

It was clear that Núñez still does not have the artisanal or technical mastery of Roberto Firmino

In between there was a headlong challenge on Andersen down the midline and another head move towards the defender, who is the sort of strong, organized and disciplined centre-half he will have to deal with in the Premier League this season.

In terms of X-factor, Nunez is up there with any of Klopp’s good strikers, but he currently looks short in terms of bonding with his teammates.

Even Mo Salah seems to be trying to adapt to help Nunez, as the Manchester City players are doing with Erling Haaland.

The Egyptian slipped a great pass for his teammate to run towards him, but as the Palace defenders closed in, the striker’s return ball was not concise enough for Salah to shoot.

Nor will it have helped Núñez’s state of mind that after disappointing his team and leaving the field, Liverpool’s “other” South American, Luis Díaz, scored an equalizer.

Anfield legend Jamie Carragher said of Nunez before kick-off: “He seems to wreak havoc when he’s on the pitch.” Unfortunately for Nunez, all of Monday night’s havoc was self-inflicted.

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