Darwin Nunez and Andrew Robertson were two of the key talking points for Liverpool fans as they battled to a 3-1 win away at Aston Villa on Boxing Day. Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk and teenage substitute Stefan Bajcetic cancelled out Ollie Watkins’ header as Express Sport takes you through five things we learned from an encapsulating Premier League clash…
Nunez confuses Liverpool fans
It was another vintage display from the Uruguayan, and even in his early Liverpool career that can already mean a multitude of things. The Nunez bingo card was all marked up by the full-time whistle as Reds supporters were left perplexed by a combination of terrific run-making, spectacular pace, impressive energy and woeful finishing.
Given the quality of chances, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to many if Nunez walked off the pitch with the match ball. Instead, his name was absent from the scoresheet after dummying an early cross when the goal was gaping, spooning a header over from close range, dispatching a tame effort from seven yards after latching onto a free-kick and missing a series of one-on-one opportunities.
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Salah ready to banish steady start
The flying Egyptian had blended somewhat into the background during the early stages of this season with Erling Haaland and Harry Kane both hammering in goals at a relentless pace. However, Mohamed Salah appears to have returned sharp, fit and ready following the World Cup break – albeit an unwanted one after Egypt failed to qualify.
After notching against Manchester City last week, Salah was again on the scoresheet at Villa Park as he finished off Robertson’s cross to put the final touch on a devastating move. He then turned provider for Liverpool’s second, showing the presence of mind to roll the ball back for Virgil van Dijk in a crowded box, and the Dutchman did the rest.
When his name was included in the starting XI for the first time since February, many expected this to be a big 90 minutes fo Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, one way or the other. Curiously enough, that didn’t turn out to be the case as he did just enough to avoid serious criticism but not enough to make a lasting impression.
The 29-year-old, who is widely expected to leave Anfield at the end of the season, remained understated while doing the simple things well and he managed to stay away from glaring mistakes. Despite that, Oxlade-Chamberlain may have needed some more eye-catching work given the options at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal and he was hauled off just after the hour mark.
Positives for Villa boss Emery
It’s still relatively early days for Villa manager Unai Emery after he stepped in to replace Steven Gerrard in October. Klopp spoke with respect about his counterpart’s achievements in football management and the West Midlands outfit certainly gave Liverpool plenty to think about on Boxing Day.
Villa were direct throughout the game and had plenty of joy, with the Reds struggling to deal with balls into the box. Ollie Watkins was the key threat and he got his reward by nodding in a measured header in the second half, even if it wasn’t enough to put points on the board.