They are already saying it so we might as well say it too: Darwin Nunez 1 Erling Haaland 0.
However, despite the glittering starting XIs that took the field for Europe’s two dominant clubs, it was the first clash of the summer’s two biggest signings in Liverpool’s Nunez and City’s Haaland that dominated the headlines leading into the match.
The reductive debate comparing the two had already kicked off over the past few months, not helped by the fact that the Norwegian started from the off for the defending Premier League champions, while Nunez began the match on the bench.
However, in what will be billed as first battle between two of the most exciting young no. 9s in the game, there was only one winner. While the former Borussia Dortmund forward forged a few good chances in the first half, he was largely peripheral. His night was typified when, with the result decided in extra time, he blazed over an open net from three yards away in the spirit of the recently-sold Raheem Sterling.
Meanwhile Nunez seized on his opportunity with aplomb and was electric from the moment he came off the bench with 30 minutes to play. A wholly different style from the player he replaced in Roberto Firmino, the Uruguayan simply ran without stopping: at defenders, into space, with the ball, pressing the ball carriers—it was tiring even watching him.
The King Power Stadium, which the casual viewer would’ve been forgiven for mistaking was Anfield, such was the boisterousness of the Liverpool support, roared every time striker ran at the backline or harried the opposing ball carriers.
City defender Ruben Dias was certainly one of those feeling more than a little winded chasing the 23-year-old around the park, lapsing in concentration when he stuck out an arm to try block the striker’s header. Craig Pawson awarded the penalty after a VAR review, with Mohamed Salah dutifully slotting away as the Reds retook the lead.
Nunez then capped off his dream debut with a stooping header from Andy Robertson’s cross in extra time to make the lead 3-1, sealing the win and sending Liverpool supporters into raptures.
“Yeah he’s good,” Reds boss Jurgen Klopp deadpanned speaking on Nunez in his post-match interview.
“I liked the game a lot, but most of the time City games against us are cool to watch. We don’t always win but they are entertaining.
“I was happy with our start of the game, but every sub made a difference. The boys are ready and it is good.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold who opened the scoring with a long-range first half strike also liked what he saw from the striker he will enjoy finding with pinpoint crosses for years to come:
“He won the penalty, scored a goal and looked very lively,” the full back said.
“He’s been brought in to score goals and he’s proved he can do that today. He’s a top player, a young player who is willing to learn. He’s bonded well with the lads. He came on with a point to prove.”
It’s just the Community Shield and it’s only a glorified preseason friendly but Reds supporters will be excited by what could be to come from their new striking sensaiton.