Darwin Nunez shaded Erling Haaland in their first matchup by scoring Liverpool’s final goal as they beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield on Saturday.
City, last season’s English Premier League champion, and Liverpool, the FA and League Cup winner, paraded their big summer signings at King Power Stadium in Leicester but it was the Uruguay international who upstaged City’s Haaland.
Nunez came off the bench in the 59th minute with the score at 1-1 and his aerial presence won the late penalty from which Mohamed Salah put Liverpool in front for a second time.
But the former Benfica striker, having earlier been denied by City goalkeeper Ederson, was not finished there and stooped to head home his first for the Reds in domestic competition in added time.
One new City signing did make his mark — former River Plate forward Julian Alvarez coming off the bench to cancel out Trent Alexander-Arnold’s opener — but the focus was really on the big men up top.
The traditional season curtainraiser played out as expected with England’s top best sides going at it once again, but it was the nuance of what the new signings might bring which attracted the intrigue.
Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 matches for Borussia Dortmund before his summer move and he is likely to add many more for City once he and they have adjusted to each other.
The Norway international had the fewest touches of any player in the first half — eight — and the service he received throughout was scant. But he was always a threat, and his last chance in stoppage time was his worst shot when he blasted against the crossbar when faced with an open goal six yards out.
“He fought a lot and made the movements,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “It is good for him to see the reality of a new country and new league. He was there (with chances) but today he didn’t score and another day he will score. He is going to help us.”
Nunez, however, justified manager Jurgen Klopp’s decision to continue his integration from the bench. He scored four second-half goals in a preseason friendly against Leipzig but that was not enough to persuade Klopp to start him.
But when he was introduced he was a bundle of energy and, unlike City with Haaland, Liverpool seemed to be better equipped to supplement his talents.
With virtually his first touch he was brought down by Ederson, who was spared by an offside flag, and then the City goalkeeper raced out to block Nunez’s shot with his chest after Jordan Henderson played him through.
Nunez is more a traditional No. 9 and less the multifunctional player Klopp usually prefers but that can work to his advantage and when he climbed highest to head down, the ball struck the arm of Ruben Dias.
Referee Craig Pawson waved away handball claims but having been advised to consult the pitchside monitor he awarded a penalty and Salah swept past Ederson.
But Nunez was not finished there, and in added time his poacher’s instinct saw him stoop to head home Robertson’s knockdown.
“He won the penalty, scored a goal and looked very lively,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s been bought in to score goals and he’s proved he can do that today. He’s a young player who is willing to learn. He’s bonded well with the lads. He came on with a point to prove.”
It was a pulsating finish to a game which ebbed and flowed, with Alexander-Arnold putting Liverpool ahead in the 21st minute from a pass rolled invitingly by Salah.
City improved in the second half and Alvarez, introduced at the same time as Nunez, equalized in the 70th after third-choice goalkeeper Adrian saved Phil Foden’s initial effort but fumbled the rebound. Alvarez followed in the exalted footsteps of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez as only the third Argentine to score in the Community Shield.
He will, however, still play second fiddle to Haaland while Nunez has begun the process of establishing himself as Liverpool’s long-term option up front and ensuring the summer sale of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich quickly becomes an afterthought.
“Every sub made a difference,” Klopp said. “The boys are ready and it is good.”
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.