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Four goals in 45 minutes: Darwin Nunez silences trolls to give Liverpool glimpse of exciting future

07:00 BST 22/07/2022
Darwin Nunez Liverpool 2022
Liverpool's £64 million signing issued the perfect riposted to idiotic comparisons to Andy Carroll

Three games into his Liverpool career, Darwin Nunez is officially up and running.

Bad news for the trolls and the social media ‘football banter’ accounts, for sure. They can park their memes and their GIFs and their Andy Carroll comparisons, at least for a few days.

Great news, though, for Jurgen Klopp. It may only be pre-season, but that familiar smile is back on the Reds boss’ face – and that can only be bad news for his opponents.

“He opened the box of Pandora!” beamed Klopp after Nunez opened his Liverpool goalscoring account in style on Thursday night, netting four times as the Reds thrashed RB Leipzig 5-0 in Germany.

How stupid the Uruguayan’s critics must feel this morning. It used to be said that new signings should be given six or nine months to settle in at a club, but that will never be the case in the Twitter age, where judgements are instant, definitive and so often downright ridiculous.

An hour’s worth of football was all it took for the keyboard warriors to emerge, labelling the £64 million ($75.5m) a flop for failing to find the net in 30-minute run-outs against Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

The usual accounts were full of it, posting ‘compilations’ of Nunez’s mistakes, while the word ‘Carroll’ trended, as rival fans compared the new-boy to another big-money Reds signing, one who managed only 11 goals for the club before being sold at a hefty loss.

All very silly, I’m sure you’ll agree, but Nunez himself saw the criticism. ‘Resiliencia’, he posted after the Palace game last week, his tweet finished off with a ‘shush’ emoji.

It’s probably not the best idea to give attention to those who crave it, but even elite footballers are human. Nunez, at least, knew he would get the chance to silence his doubters on the pitch.

In Leipzig, he did exactly that. On for Roberto Firmino at half-time, he responded with a 23-minute hat-trick, before grabbing his fourth goal, and Liverpool’s fifth, in the closing minutes.

“The perfect night for him,” said Klopp, who administered one of his trademark hugs at the final whistle.

Nunez’s first goal came from the penalty spot after Luis Diaz had been felled by Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich.

Mohamed Salah, who had scored the first goal of the night, is Liverpool’s usual taker, but the Egyptian allowed his new team-mate to convert this one, an act of decency that certainly did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. 

“I’m not sure if it’s a clause in his new contract to be generous as hell!” joked Klopp, but he, Salah and Nunez will have been delighted to see the ball fly into the corner of the net via Blaswich’s fingertips.

Only a friendly, yes, but a miss would have brought more unwanted attention, for sure.

As is so often the case, one goal swiftly brought two. Three minutes later, Liverpool won the ball high up the field, allowing Trent Alexander-Arnold to release Nunez, who finished clinically on his right foot. 

The hat-trick arrived midway through the second half.

Stefan Bajcetic – remember that name, by the way – won the ball in the final third and fed Harvey Elliott, whose low cross was slid home by Nunez inside the six-yard box. 

It was exactly the kind goal centre-forwards dream of, and one which had Phil Thompson, in the LFCTV studio, talking of Ian Rush and John Aldridge, Liverpool poachers from years gone by.

Jason McAteer, sat alongside Thompson, offered a rather different comparison.

“He reminds me a bit of [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic,” remarked the former Reds full-back.

Klopp’s comments, as you would expect, were a little more measured.

“He’s a different striker to what we have, or what we had,” he pointed out after the game. “But he’s a really good one!”

After completing his hat-trick, Nunez had a towering header well saved from a James Milner cross, but he would finish his night’s work with another goal, Blaswich fumbling his 90th-minute strike into the far corner.

Fabio Carvalho picked up the assist for that one, and the 19-year-old, another summer arrival at Anfield, already looks a hell of a find.

He and Elliott, in particular, look like they could make a big impact this season, while Bajcetic, at 17, is also one to watch: a composed, competitive midfield player signed quietly from Celta Vigo last year, who has made a very good impression on Klopp this summer.

Liverpool headed to Austria overnight, where they will enjoy a week-long training camp, featuring a game against Salzburg next Wednesday. 

Then comes the Community Shield against Manchester City at Leicester, a week on Saturday, before the Premier League season begins away to Fulham on August 6.

On this evidence, Nunez should be ready to hit the ground running by then.

And with Salah scoring, Firmino and Luis Diaz buzzing, and Carvalho and Elliott pushing hard behind them, not to mention Diogo Jota to return from injury, the Reds' attack looks a tantalising prospect heading into the new campaign.