Darwin Nunez struck twice in 13 minutes to complete an extraordinary comeback and give Liverpool a late 2-1 win at Newcastle United as their unbeaten start to the season continued in the Premier League.
Newcastle were dominant following Anthony Gordon’s 25th-minute opener — capitalising on a mistake by Trent Alexander-Arnold — and the dismissal of Reds centre-back Virgil van Dijk for fouling Alexander Isak as the last defender in the 28th minute.
Visiting goalkeeper Alisson produced a sensational save to turn Miguel Almiron’s thunderous shot against the woodwork shortly after the hosts went ahead, and the Paraguay attacker also hit a post in the second half as Liverpool failed to have a shot on target for 53 minutes following Van Dijk’s departure.
That changed when Nunez, who had come on four minutes earlier, picked up a ricochet off Sven Botman, charged inside the penalty area and drilled a fierce, precise low finish past Nick Pope and in off a post with nine minutes remaining.
More improbable drama arrived when Bruno Guimaraes gave possession away, Mohamed Salah fed Nunez with a perceptive pass beyond Dan Burn and the forward fired another ruthless finish beyond Pope to settle a pulsating, occasionally chaotic game with three minutes of added time played.
Van Dijk was furious with referee John Brooks for handing the Netherlands international the second red card of his Premier League career, protesting that he had not fouled Isak in an incident that compounded Liverpool’s misery at going behind.
Van Dijk was sent off just over two minutes later, with referee John Brooks showing him a straight red card for fouling Alexander Isak on the edge of the box, and the VAR backed his on-field decision.
That prompted a period of dominance from the home side, with Alisson pulling off a brilliant save to push Miguel Almiron’s powerful volley onto the crossbar in the 36th minute.
Almiron fired another golden opportunity over the bar five minutes into the second half as Newcastle made the most of having an extra player, and he hit the post in the 76th minute.
Finding a way to make Núñez take those chances consistently is Klopp’s challenge, but it is a challenge he will persevere with. The player has such attributes with his pace, movement and finishing (when it comes off) that Liverpool know they have a forward who could score between 20 and 30 goals a season eventually.
When Núñez scored the winner, after being released by Salah’s pass, it was another cool finish beyond goalkeeper Nick Pope that made a mockery of his reputation as a player who misses more than he scores. The issue with Núñez is that he scores the tough chances and struggles with the seemingly easy ones, but fixing that flaw should be possible with time on the training pitch.
That Núñez was even able to rescue and win this game for Liverpool is a testament to the resolve within Klopp’s team.
They were overrun by Newcastle for long periods, but after losing Van Dijk following a reckless foul on Alexander Isak, somehow found a way to resist the home side long enough to stay in the game. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker made crucial saves, with one from Miguel Almirón preventing Newcastle from going in 2-0 ahead at half-time, and the home side couldn’t find a way to score the second and kill the game.
“We should have put the game to bed and that is probably the thing we are all kicking ourselves with,” Newcastle manager Edde Howe said. “We had a lot of chances and goalmouth action. Their goalkeeper made one of the best saves that I have seen live from Almirón and it just wasn’t to be for us.
“The moments and chances were there right until the end but we lacked the killer instinct.”
It was Núñez who displayed that killer instinct, however, and his contribution won the game for Liverpool. This was his biggest moment in a Liverpool shirt, the day when he truly made a difference when the pressure was on.
Núñez now needs to make it the norm rather than a rare highlight.
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