Thursday, February 9, 2023

Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez red carded for Zinedine Zidane-like headbutt in Anfield debut

Liverpool v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Anfield
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Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez had an eventful Anfield debut on Monday against Crystal Palace. Klopp inserted the Uruguay international into the starting XI for the first time this season “because we have no other striker,” but only saw him on the pitch for under an hour due to a rare lapse of judgement. With frustration building in a match where Liverpool were down 1-0 from a goal from Wilfred Zaha, Nunez was red carded for a headbutt on Joachim Andersen — not unlike the Zinedine Zidane headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final — in the 56th minute. 

Despite trailing at the time of the red, Liverpool were dominating the match and it felt like a second-half turnaround was in the cards. Instead, they were forced to settle into a 1-1 draw in their first home game of the season thanks to a brilliant goal from Luis Diaz to rescue a point. 

Patrick Vieira set up his Crystal Palace team in a back three to deal with Liverpool crosses into Nunez and his plan couldn’t have worked better. Nunez only had 19 touches in a game where he probably felt isolated due to the physical defending from the three Palace central defenders. And while he took five shots himself, two were blocked and the other three didn’t even test Crystal Palace keeper Vicente Guaita.

Nunez lost his cool when he was shoved by Anderson and retaliated by headbutting the Danish center back in return.

Liverpool were able to respond finding an equalizer via a wonderful solo strike by Diaz, but Crystal Palace looked closer to a winner in the late stages than the Reds. Zaha’s ability in space was tough to deal with as Liverpool opened the season by dropping points in their first two matches. And although this might be real early into the season, it’s worth noting that the title was decided by one point last season. These dropped points may be more important than a looming three-game suspension to their star striker.

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