Darwin Nunez helps steer Liverpool to Community Shield glory over Manchester City

Darwin Nunez (27) celebrates scoring Liverpool’s third goal during the FA Community Shield win over Manchester City at the King Power Stadium

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Jurgen Klopp may have tried to avoid a striking shootout, an immediate comparison between two attacking signings. He delayed Darwin Nunez’s debut, holding him back while Erling Haaland started for Manchester City. Yet the Uruguayan ended his Liverpool bow having opened his account, made an explosive impact and won the Community Shield. It was quite a start.

His 40 minutes of menace trumped Haaland’s 90 of impotence, capped by a glaring miss in injury time. He clipped the bar but, with the goal gaping, his 16th touch of the match was his worst.

The Norwegian was upstaged not merely by his Anfield counterpart, but by the other attacker City signed, with Julian Alvarez capping his bow with a predatory goal, and the one Liverpool re-signed, with Mohamed Salah restoring Liverpool’s lead in his first game after agreeing the most lucrative contract in their history.

It came indirectly because of Nunez. His cameo justified the description of an immediate impact. Ederson denied him a goal when he powered through. He directed a header just past a post. His aerial threat was very apparent and, when Ruben Dias unwittingly handled his header in the box, the officials initially ignored it.

A review on the monitor later, Craig Pawson awarded a penalty and Salah drilled it under Ederson. After 31 goals last season, he already has one this and he looked razor sharp: his habit of making flying starts to seasons could continue.

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Mo Salah scores the penalty to make it 2-1

Yet even Salah took second billing, even though he assisted Liverpool’s first goal and played a part in their third, chipping a cross to the back post. Andy Robertson headed it back across the area and Nunez plunged forward to apply the finishing touch.

Three goals brought a third trophy of 2022 and, if the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Community Shield does not represent the most prestigious of trebles, Klopp extended his record number of wins over Pep Guardiola to 11 and, showing more intensity, Liverpool looked readier for the season.

Their last two competitive games had brought disappointment in the competitions they prize most, costing them the Premier League and the Champions League respectively, but while City denied them in May, they inflicted a second successive Community Shield defeat on Guardiola. As last season showed, that need not be an impediment to his ambitions, even if Haaland’s unimpressive bow was inauspicious.

Trent Alexander-Arnold grabbed Liverpool’s opener

Liverpool had begun the brighter, with Salah flying past Joao Cancelo, who he targeted, and firing a shot into the side netting. Yet they had spent 2022 racking up shots in finals without scoring. After drawing a blank in the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Champions League showpieces, they belatedly got a first, even if the decisive touch was applied by a City player, Nathan Ake’s header deflecting the ball past Ederson. The rest of the move was lovely, Thiago Alcantara chipping a diagonal pass, Salah laying it off and Trent Alexander-Arnold curling a shot. After a chastening Champions League final, when he was arguably culpable for Vinicius Junior’s winner, this was a reminder of Alexander-Arnold’s attacking excellence.

City took time to respond, though they improved after the introductions of Phil Foden and Alvarez. Each of their initial front three looked short of his best, leaving them reliant on their midfielders. Bernardo Silva brought a willingness to keep on running, Kevin de Bruyne a drive and touches of quality, whether a rasping shot into the side netting or his part in Alvarez’s leveller on 70 minutes.

Argentinian striker Julian Alvarez (19) drew Man City level with his first goal for the club

It was initially disallowed before it was proven neither he nor Foden was offside when the Mancunian met Kevin de Bruyne’s cross with a volley Adrian blocked brilliantly before Alvarez tucked in the rebound.

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Luckless then, Liverpool’s third-choice goalkeeper, and the hero of the 2019 European Super Cup, nevertheless showed an aptitude for the big occasion with fine saves, especially from Riyad Mahrez.

With Virgil van Dijk rendering Haaland the game’s most famous spectator, Liverpool impressed. Thiago lent elegance amid the energy, the former Guardiola player in the Klopp team was the game’s classiest passer. Alongside him, Jordan Henderson marked his 450th Liverpool appearance with a performance that allied bristling purpose with quality. And, at the end, another trophy to lift.

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