Premier League • England

Darwin Nunez: Michael Owen revisits ‘laughable’ question after goalscoring return for Liverpool striker who hasn’t ‘done anything wrong’

Darwin Nunez, September 2022

Darwin Nunez “needed” his goal against Rangers in the Champions League for Liverpool, according to Michael Owen – who was already defending him before kick-off.

Liverpool restored some positivity with a 7-1 hammering of Rangers at Ibrox on Wednesday night. Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were the headline grabbers; the former scored a brace and the latter came on to provide the Champions League’s quickest ever hat-trick.

Also on the scoresheet, importantly, were Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott. For both players, it was a first goal in the Champions League as a Liverpool player.

It came at an ideal time for Nunez, who has been under scrutiny since his club-record transfer from Benfica. The striker has been struggling to justify his high fee so far, partly because of limited opportunities to start.

He had scored on his most recent Premier League appearance before the Rangers match, against Arsenal. But before that, he had drawn a blank in six matches across all competition – beginning with a draw with Crystal Palace in which he received a red card.

Nunez’s sluggish start to his Liverpool career has become more noticeable due to the way Erling Haaland has hit the ground running since joining Manchester City.

However, the Uruguay international might be taking some steps in the right direction.

Before the second fixture against Rangers, former Liverpool striker Owen admitted it now looks “laughable” that people were wondering whether Nunez might score more goals than Haaland.

‘Stop-start’ beginning for new Liverpool striker

However, the BT Sport pundit insisted there has been nothing wrong with how Liverpool’s new arrival has been doing either.

In the build-up to the game, Owen told BT Sport: “I think he’s had a stop-start start. He got a red card early in his career and you want to make a big impression with your new team.

“Let’s bear in mind, at the start of the season we were saying two big signings – one at Man City, one at Liverpool, who’s going to score the most goals? At the moment it looks laughable because one is firing and one is finding his feet in the Premier League.

“A lot of people are writing him off or saying, ‘ooh, I’m not sure about Liverpool’s new signing’. I don’t think he’s done anything wrong for Liverpool so far. He scored against Arsenal, he played fine [in the first game] against Rangers – a lot of chances.”

Michael Owen reacts to Darwin Nunez getting on scoresheet again

Nunez went on to last 68 minutes of the match at Ibrox before Salah came on for him. Firmino brilliantly set up the ex-Almeria man for a carefully placed effort into the bottom corner two minutes before his withdrawal.

Getting on the scoresheet again in Europe should have helped lift some of the weight off of Nunez’s shoulders.

Indeed, after the game, Owen highlighted the importance of him finding the net, after impressing with his movement during his appearance.

In the post-match coverage on BT Sport, Owen added to his earlier comments: “I think Nunez’s goal was important. I thought he was ragged today.

“I thought for the first hour, I love his movement, he makes galloping runs into the channels but his end product today was a little bit off. He needed that goal.”

Nunez now has four goals to his name for Liverpool from 10 appearances. As Owen may have been alluding to, it is not a bad record by any means.

It will be almost impossible for anyone to compete with the numbers Haaland will be putting up for Manchester City. Nunez must merely focus on his own game. With that in mind, Liverpool will have to keep trying to get the best out of him.

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