Nunez's goal 'the icing on the cake' for Klopp as Liverpool boss hails super subs
Jurgen Klopp was hugely impressed with his back-up brigade after Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield, as he hit out at the nature of judging players in pre-season.
Liverpool triumphed in a fiercely contested clash with the Premier League champions at the King Power Stadium on Saturday thanks to goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez.
The latter impressed with a 30-minute cameo from the bench, marking his debut in English football in style and outshining City's big-money striker – Erling Haaland – in the process.
Nunez stooped low to head in a left-wing cross in stoppage time to put Liverpool two goals ahead, shortly before Haaland inexplicably hit the crossbar at the other end after Adrian had kept out Phil Foden's shot.
Signed from Benfica after a brilliant 2021-22 campaign, both in Portugal's top tier and the Champions League, Nunez had some difficult opening matches for Liverpool at the start of pre-season, but he scored four in a 5-0 rout of RB Leipzig last week.
His impact from the bench on Saturday was telling, with the 23-year-old having four goal attempts, two of which were on target, and it was his header into the upright arm of Ruben Dias that handed Liverpool a penalty after Julian Alvarez had drawn City level.
"It was good, was really good," Klopp said of Nunez's debut in his post-match news conference.
"It's clear that he will get better with time. Everybody gets judged on first sight. It's not helpful for anybody, but it happens all the time.
"Both teams were today not 100 per cent at their physical usual situation. But in the first few [pre-season] games we were not even close to the level today. [In those games] everybody judges his first touches and this kind of thing and it's a joke, but we have to live with it. We are patient, we knew that he can do good stuff.
"We all know – [strikers are] a special species – and everyone knows about the positives, goal involvements. I think Darwin, even without scoring the third one, [would have scored] because of the penalty was from his header, and before that Ederson reacted brilliantly [to make a save when one-on-one with the Uruguayan].
"The goal was the icing on the cake. For him, you could see his face, how happy the boys are for him. It's a really good sign after a short period of time."
Nunez became the fourth player to score on his competitive debut for Liverpool under Klopp, after Sadio Mane, Salah and Virgil van Dijk, but the striker was not the only substitute to impress Liverpool's manager, who won the Community Shield for the first time at the third time of asking.
"Today I liked the impact, in a high-level game. As good as we were, the impact from the bench was really exceptional. A very good sign," said Klopp, who brought on Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, James Milner, Harvey Elliott and debutant Fabio Carvalho as well as Nunez.
"A good watch, a good game. Both teams used what was available today, that's what we could have expected."
Asked by Stats Perform if the nature in which Liverpool regained control in the latter stages boded well for the fitness of his side ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Klopp said: "It was for me really nice. It's the most difficult opponent you can get, they do not get any better.
"Their squad, the boys he could bring on, it's very experienced, proven quality. We have space to improve the quality from the bench. Harvey's impact. Millie [Milner], I'm not sure what level he can reach this year to be honest! Curtis, and Naby – wow – just so good."
Liverpool face Strasbourg in a friendly on Sunday at Anfield, before turning their attention to taking on promoted Fulham in their first game of the Premier League season.