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Winners & Losers

The Darwin show! Liverpool winners, losers and ratings as Nunez delivers and Firmino bounces back from World Cup snub

17:37 GMT 12/11/2022
Darwin Nunez Liverpool 2022-23
The Reds' South American forwards combined to score all three goals as the Reds signed off for the World Cup break with a win over Southampton

The Darwin Nunez bandwagon is gathering pace at Anfield. The form of Liverpool's £64-million ($72m) man has been on an upward curve for a while now, and it reached a new high here, as the Uruguayan scored twice to ensure the Reds signed off for the World Cup in style, with a 3-1 win over Southampton.

Nunez now has nine goals in as many starts for his new club, and his all-round performance here was comfortably the best he has produced since his summer switch from Benfica. His goals were well-taken, instinctive, first-time finishes from inside the penalty area, and on another day he'd have had a pair of assists too, setting up Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah for chances which Gavin Bazunu saved.

Firmino, left out of the Brazil squad for Qatar this week, had opened the scoring after just six minutes with a fine glancing header from Andy Robertson's free kick, only for Che Adams to hit back almost immediately from a James Ward-Prowse delivery.

Nunez, though, had Liverpool in control by half-time, first finishing off Harvey Elliott's lovely pass on the volley, and rounding off a sweeping move by sliding in to bury Robertson's low cross.

That proved to be the end of the scoring, although Liverpool needed Alisson Becker to make a series of fine saves in the second half to preserve their advantage, and ensure that Nunez was the matchwinner.

  • Roberto Firmino Liverpool 2022-23

    The Winners

    Darwin Nunez:

    So much for 'the new Andy Carroll'. With each passing game, such infantile comparisons look ever more absurd. Nunez is now only two goals shy of Carroll's tally for Liverpool, his first-half brace taking him to nine in all competitions. That they have come in only nine starts (18 appearances total), tells you everything about the Uruguayan's quality and, perhaps more importantly, his potential. The 23-year-old is an absolute magnet for chances - he is averaging more than six shots a game so far - and he took two of the three that came his way here, volleying in with his left foot from Elliott's astute pick-out for 2-1, before arriving perfectly to slide home Robertson's low cross for his second. Just as impressive, though, were the signs that his all-round game, criticised harshly during the early weeks of the season, is improving. Here, Nunez didn't just look like a goalscorer or a chaos-bringer. He looked like a £64m footballer. His superb, swept cross from the left should have brought a goal for Salah, while his gorgeous backheel opened up a chance for Firmino. There was a crossfield diagonal from left to right onto Salah's chest, a show of strength and a Cruyff-turn to evade Romeo Lavia in midfield, and certainly enough pressing and tracking to earn the appreciation of the Kop. They chanted his name when he went off, three minutes from time. Job done. Next stop Qatar. You wouldn't want to be facing Uruguay, on this evidence.

    Andy Robertson:

    If you ever needed a reminder, here it was. Andy Robertson is, and remains, an absolute class act. With two assists in the first half, the Reds left-back secured himself another bit of history. Only Leighton Baines in the Premier League era has created as many goals as a defender. Fifty-three assists is an absurd number, and speaks to the Scot's consistency, as well as his quality. His first here was a set-piece, a free-kick whipped in from the right which Firmino did superbly to guide home with his head. His second was classic Robertson; too sharp for Southampton's defence and able to get in behind onto Firmino's pass, before proving the perfect fizzed low cross for Nunez to convert. He too got a great ovation when substituted. No World Cup for him, sadly, but signs in recent weeks that he's getting back towards top form for his club.

    Roberto Firmino:

    Six minutes was all it took to expose the folly of Brazil's World Cup selection. Firmino had been devastated to miss out on Tite's 26-man squad for Qatar when it was announced this week, but if you were wondering if he might let it affect his performance here, you needn't have worried. His early header got Liverpool up and running, and it was a superb one too, guided subtly into the far corner from 15 yards. He had a big hand in the Reds' third goal too, sliding in Robertson down the left with a lovely pass inside the full-back. He's had a good start to the season, Firmino. Like Nunez, he has nine goals in all competitions, although seven of the Brazilian's have come in the Premier League. It wasn't enough to get him to Qatar, but it could be enough to give Liverpool food for thought with regards to his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.

  • Tite Brazil 2022

    The Losers

    Tite:

    Is it too late to change your squad? Brazil's coach, in fairness, is hardly light when it comes to attacking options, but he must have watched Firmino's performance here and wondered if he might have made a mistake. Any side in the world would want a No.9 like him, capable of working with the ball as well as against it, and continually doing the heavy lifting to allow the more heralded, spectacular players to do their business. Tite will, at least, have been enthused by the form of Alisson Becker, who made three outstanding saves to keep Liverpool's advantage at two in the second half. He might be a little more concerned by Fabinho, who was better here but not by much. The midfielder still looks lethargic, and that may cost him his starting spot in Qatar.

    Naby Keita:

    And so we reach the winter break without any sign the fourth-biggest signing in Liverpool's history. Keita hasn't been seen since featuring as a late substitute in the Community Shield back in July, and at this point you have to question whether we have seen the last of the Guinea international in a red shirt. "He's running," said Klopp on Friday, but as Liverpool's midfield has toiled this season, the 27-year-old has, again, been unable to help out and show the quality that persuaded the Reds to pay more than £50m ($60m) to sign him from RB Leipzig four years ago. There have been only 72 starts since then, and only 117 appearances in total. Keita's contract is up at the end of the season, and it is hard to make a case for a renewal. It's a crying shame, because the talent is there, but Liverpool's midfield needs a refresh, and he isn't the man to provide it.

  • Andrew Robertson Liverpool 2022-23

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Alisson Becker (8/10):

    Beaten to the punch by Adams for the equaliser, but made a string of superb saves in the second half, the best of which was from the same player's close-range header.

    Trent Alexander-Arnold (7/10):

    Some good, crisp passes into the frontmen, and defended well 1v1 for the most part.

    Joe Gomez (6/10):

    Mixed. Good when defending on the front foot. Not so good when standing off.

    Virgil van Dijk (7/10):

    Let Adams go for the equaliser. Was often in the right position to make clearances, and Southampton largely stayed away from him in terms of aerial duels. Close with a couple of headers from corners.

    Andy Robertson (8/10):

    Superb. Two assists in the first half and bundles of energy throughout.

  • Fabinho Liverpool 2022-23

    Midfield

    Fabinho (6/10):

    Still looks a bit heavy legged. Did OK in spells but Liverpool were too open in the second half.

    Thiago Alcantara (7/10):

    Pulled out that turn on multiple occasions in the first half, when the left side of Liverpool's team was purring. Faded a little as the game wore on.

    Harvey Elliott (7/10):

    Beautiful pick-out for Nunez's first goal, and did plenty of other impressive things. Has such a lovely touch, and is growing with each game.

  • Darwin Nunez Liverpool 2022-23

    Attack

    Mohamed Salah (7/10):

    Denied by Bazunu in the first half, but always bright and connecting. Frustrated in his attempts to get on the scoresheet.

    Darwin Nunez (8/10):

    A monster of a first half, with two well-taken goals, backheels, diagonals and a Robertson-esque cross. Less effective after the break but this was a fine performance from the Uruguayan.

    Roberto Firmino (8/10):

    Great header to open the scoring and heavily involved in the third goal. Perfect riposte to his World Cup disappointment.

  • Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022-23

    Subs & Manager

    James Milner (6/10):

    On for his 600th Premier League appearance, only the fourth man to reach that milestone. He did a bit of everything in his time on the field.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6/10):

    Replaced Firmino. Some decent footwork in the middle of the field.

    Fabio Carvalho (N/A):

    Late sub.

    Nat Phillips (N/A):

    Came on to win a few headers.

    Kostas Tsimikas (N/A):

    On late.

    Jurgen Klopp (7/10):

    Banned from the touchline so watched from a box in the Main Stand, in contact with his bench throughout. Emerged for the celebrations at the end.