Gary Neville accused Darwin Nunez of “a moment of madness” during Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Monday, while Jamie Carragher said the Reds striker could be missing for six weeks after his straight red card.
The Uruguay international, who arrived in the summer for a potential club-record £85m fee, was sent off early in the second half for flooring Joachim Andersen with a headbutt.
Luis Diaz salvaged a draw for Liverpool after Nunez had been sensationally sent off for a headbutt on his full debut. Wilfried Zaha had given Palace the lead with a neat counter-attack before Nunez reacted to a push from Andersen.
The two had tangled with each other all night and Nunez looked to have tried to flick his head back towards the face of the defender, which saw Andersen push the Liverpool man.
Jurgen Klopp pointed to the provocation the striker had received. But accepted there were no excuses for his reaction and the three-match ban he will now serve – missing matches against Manchester United, Bournemouth and Newcastle.
It was an impressive result for Patrick Vieira’s side and a second draw from two games for Jurgen Klopp’s men, but Neville maintained that Nunez’s rush of blood was the main story from Anfield.
“Tonight the story is Nunez,” Neville told Sky Sports. “Not just the second headbutt, but the first one, then to have a go again.
“You usually get a coming together and there’s a little one, but he’s properly gone for it.
“There’s no history of that at Benfica, he’s not been sent off there. That’s the stupidity of tonight. He’s a young player and it’s a steep learning curve for him tonight.”
‘Moment of madness’ from Nunez
Neville added: “It’s a moment of madness. You’ll feel that. That’s a proper butt to the underside of the nose.
“We don’t know why he’s done it. I’ve done two or three things like this in my career. We don’t know why we react. And we have no idea. We go off and think ‘what did I just do’ – honestly. I kicked a ball at a fan at Everton and did a similar thing in a game against Steve McManaman. It’s that red mist. It comes over you.
“When you get sent off like that it’s the loneliest place in the world. You might have a kit man with you but it’s horrible. You are in that dressing room and your team-mates are out on the pitch.
“You’ve left them down and you feel so bad. You don’t need to say too much to a player that has been sent off as it’s awful anyway and they take responsibility. I’m sure he’d have gone around the dressing room to apologise. The rest of the lads in that dressing room will pick him up as it’s a good dressing room.”
‘Draws are defeats now’
Asked if the red card was costly for Liverpool, Reds legend Carragher said: “Hugely. It’s been a terrible start for Liverpool points-wise.
“I actually thought Liverpool were outstanding tonight in the first half before the Palace goal and how they reacted to going down to 10 men.
“Draws are defeats now. We know the bar has been raised so far now by Manchester City and Liverpool in the last few years.
“You’re giving yourself a tough thing to catch one of the greatest teams we’ve ever seen in the Premier League. A really poor start to the season points-wise.”
Carragher added on Nunez: “He’s let himself down, he’s also let his team down there. If he had been on the pitch, I’m sure Liverpool would have possibly won the game.’
“It’s a nightmare start for him as a player at Liverpool, it’s a nightmare for Jurgen Klopp as he is trying to integrate him into a new team.
“The issue wasn’t tonight, the problem is how long it will be until he is back in the team as he’ll likely only be on the bench after the suspension to get up to speed so it could be five or six weeks until we see him back in the Liverpool starting XI.”
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