Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admitted that his striker Darwin Nunez was in the wrong for headbutting a rival player and getting sent off in his home debut at Anfield on Monday night.
The Reds are now four points behind league Manchester City after drawing their first two matches in the Premier League’s new season.
Against Crystal Palace, they went 1-0 down thanks to a Wilfried Zaha opener on 32 minutes with the tension proving too much for their €75 million ($76 million) signing from Benfica.
Nunez clashed with the south Londoners’ defender Joachim Andersen on various occasions, with the Danish defender often pushing the Uruguayan in the back and winding him up.
Nunez responded with a dangerous slide tackle at one point, but one shove too many from Andersen prompted Nunez to turn round and headbutt the Scandinavian on the chin which sent him crashing to the ground.
Worry for Darwin Nunez if this is enough to provoke a headbutt. Every centre-back will do this to him now.Three games out and then it’s the derby. Surely he doesn’t start that? pic.twitter.com/DNaxNNoII8
— Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) August 16, 2022
Nunez received an immediate red card for the act and made history by becoming the first Liverpool star to be sent off for violent conduct during the seven-year reign of his manager Klopp.
Post-match, Klopp pointed out that his charge had been goaded but accepted he was in the wrong.
“Of course, it is a red card. He is provoked all the time but that is not how you should behave,” Klopp commented.
“Darwin knows himself it is not the reaction you want to see. Centre-halves will do that to him but that is not the reaction.
“It is not cool for us in that situation. He will learn from it. I will speak to him,” Klopp vowed.
Harsher criticism came from Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, who first noted that it was a “proper butt” on Andersen and not the usual half-hearted brush often seen in football.
“It was a moment of madness,” Neville added, claiming that Nunez had a “red mist” come over him in a moment of “stupidity.”
Neville predicted that Nunez would feel “so bad” and in the “loneliest place in the world” after letting his teammates down, and others have pointed out that Premier League defenders know now the youngster has a short fuse which can be exploited to their own benefit.
Comparisons have also naturally been drawn between Nunez and his compatriot Luis Suarez, who was never short of explosive controversies across a highly successful three-year tenure in northwestern England laden with everything from biting to racism rows.
“If Nunez is going to act like Suarez he best start f*cking performing like him,” demanded one popular fan tweet.
Neville was “sure” that Nunez had “gone around the dressing room to apologize” for his outburst and that the “rest of the lads in that dressing room will pick him up as it’s a good dressing room.”
As a consequence of his actions, though, Nunez will now miss Liverpool’s next outing which comes against Neville’s former club Manchester United at Old Trafford, plus a further two fixtures as part of a three-game ban.
United are having their own troubles in the English top flight and are also winless after two games thanks to 4-0 and 2-1 defeats against Brentford and Brighton.
With a win over their Merseyside arch enemies, however, bottom of the league United would actually leapfrog last season’s Champions League finalists in the table and crown a nightmare start to their campaign for Liverpool.
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