Haaland frustrated but Nunez shines as Liverpool overcome Man City

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

"They're not used to Erling's natural runs yet, like we're not used to Darwin's. They'll need some time for Erling, but that doesn't mean he can't score."

Jurgen Klopp's assessment of Erling Haaland and Manchester City on Friday could easily have gone against the Liverpool manager.

After all, add in a great goalscorer to an already great team and surely the result can only be more greatness? But in   Saturday's Community Shield game – taking place at Leicester City's King Power Stadium – Klopp's words rang true, and instead it was City's Julian Alvarez and Liverpool's Darwin Nunez who each made their mark.

Liverpool ran out the victors in this latest instalment of English football's new number one rivalry, as City lost the season's curtain-raiser for a second successive year. It was new signing Nunez – named as a substitute when Haaland had been given the nod from the off for the Reds' opponents – who added gloss in a 3-1 victory that makes it advantage Klopp in the rivalry stakes for the coming season.

It was easy to forget, due to the vociferous atmosphere emanating from both ends, that this match amounts to what is essentially an exhibition, even if Pep Guardiola has often cited the Community Shield as a major trophy – one that Klopp had not previously won.

The intensity in the stands was matched by the players, especially in one spell midway through the first half when the tenacious Bernardo Silva sparked a flurry of robust tackles in midfield.

Liverpool dominated the opening stages, enjoying 57 per cent possession in the first 15 minutes and going close through Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson.

Erling Haaland started up top for Manchester City against Liverpool
Erling Haaland started up top for Manchester City against Liverpool

It has been an off-season of change for City. Kalvin Phillips and Alvarez have joined Haaland through the door, but Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Oleksandr Zinchenko have left, and a lack of fluidity to the Premier League champions' play was noticeable as they laboured to get out of first gear.

There was a moment prior to Trent Alexander-Arnold's 21st-minute opener, when Kevin De Bruyne spun clear of his marker and Haaland looked all set to burst through and square up Liverpool's stand-in goalkeeper Adrian, yet the Belgian's pass was just too close to Virgil van Dijk.

That summed up a hugely frustrating first half for City's new number nine, who only had three touches prior to the half-hour mark, all of which came in his own half.

Alexander-Arnold's strike, his 10th Reds goal from outside the area, led to red smoke bombs being thrown onto the pitch from a jubilant Liverpool end, and City at that stage looked punch-drunk.

Then, the chances came. First, Haaland drilled at Adrian while off-balance, before he just failed to get proper purchase on a cross from the left – Riyad Mahrez heading into Adrian's arms on the rebound.

In normal pre-season circumstances, Guardiola might well have taken Haaland off when he made his first changes just before the hour, but it was instead Mahrez and Jack Grealish who made way for Alvarez and Phil Foden. At the same time, Klopp introduced Nunez for his domestic bow.

Nunez's impact was near-instant, getting in behind City's line and drawing a desperate lunge from Ederson in the area, but the linesman flagged for offside rather than a Liverpool penalty. Soon after, City's goalkeeper made a brave stop to deny the former Benfica forward.

Where one substitute went close, another then hit the net. In an interview in the matchday programme, Alvarez insisted his focus was not on matching Haaland, but instead on improving his own game. It was the Argentine forward who bundled in City's equaliser after Phil Foden forced Adrian into a save, with VAR overturning an incorrect offside call.

If City and Haaland might need time to gel fully, then the opposite should be true for Alvarez, who was a livewire from the moment he came on, becoming the third Argentinian to score in the Community Shield, after former City strikers Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez.

Though where VAR had come to City's aid for Alvarez's goal, it helped Liverpool 10 minutes later, when a Nunez header struck the arm of Ruben Dias, which referee Craig Pawson deemed to have been in an unnatural position upon checking the screen.

For all the talk of new striker signings at both club, it was perhaps fitting that a familiar face in Salah stepped up for the penalty to remind everyone involved of his quality with a firm finish into the bottom-right corner.

Arguably the most important business Liverpool could have done in the close season was their July 1 move to tie Salah down to a new contract, and the 30-year-old has been directly involved in 13 goals for Liverpool against City, his most against a single side for the Reds.

Haaland had the ball in the net at the other end early in seven minutes of stoppage time, but it did not count – Foden had failed to keep it in. Moments later, Nunez stooped low to head in Robertson's cross. He is the fourth player to have scored on his competitive Liverpool debut under Klopp, after Salah, Van Dijk and Salah.

If there was any further evidence needed that this day would not be Haaland's, the 22-year-old hit the crossbar with the goal gaping with very nearly the last kick of the match to send Liverpool's fans into further delirium. It was the best chance of the match from open play, with an xG (expected goals) rating of 0.54. He was at least able to laugh it off as a bad day at the office, but goalscorers as prolific as him do not take misses like that well.

The former Borussia Dortmund player had just 16 touches over the 90 minutes.

Haaland's day will come, perhaps even against West Ham in City's Premier League opener, but on Saturday's evidence, Liverpool have adapted to their new striker swifter than their great rivals have theirs.

Manchester City's Erling Haaland struggled against Liverpool
Manchester City's Erling Haaland struggled against Liverpool
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting