Liverpool and Manchester City came to the King Power Stadium armed to the teeth with newly-acquired firepower. Darwin Nunez is likely to spend the entirety of this season being compared to Erling Haaland. This weekend, the Uruguayan won round one of what is likely to be a running battle, netting in Liverpool’s 3-1 Community Shield win over City at the King Power Stadium.
Liverpool started expansively, widening the pitch through Andy Robertson on the left and Salah on the right. The latter had an early sniff after leaving Joao Cancelo standing, but his shot hit the side netting. City enjoyed the odd break, like Kevin De Bruyne’s shot that was denied by Virgil van Dijk, but Liverpool looked the most likely.
A Robertson cross was well defended by Nathan Ake, a transfer target for Chelsea this summer. Ederson was called into action to claw away a Jordan Henderson ball. The City keeper could do nothing to keep out Trent Alexander-Arnold though. Salah tucked a weighted ball inside for the right back, whose curled shot nestled into Ederson’s net.
Erling Haaland, perhaps conscious all eyes would be on him for his competitive debut, had two solid chances towards the end of the half. First, the ex-Borussia Dortmund man muscled his way through before Adrian pulled off a solid save. Seconds later, Haaland should have done better with a Bernardo Silva cross, thumping it wide with an outstretched left leg.
A well-mannered game showed signs of coming undone before half-time. Riyad Mahrez wanted a penalty for an innocuous tackle by Thiago, while Cancelo had a little nibble at Alexander-Arnold.
Despite a lack of half-time substitutes, City started the second half looking far different than they ended the first. Both Cancelo and Kyle Walker were deployed further forward, while Mahrez drew Adrian into a save while many fans were still taking their seats after a midpoint pie and pint.
Of course, Haaland was not the only new striker on show, as Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez and City’s Julian Alvarez got a chance to strut their stuff from the bench. Nunez was the first to make an impact, latching onto a smart Henderson pass and drawing a point-blank save from the face of Ederson. Then Phil Foden drew a point-blank save from Adrian before Alvarez lashed home the rebound. Initially judged offside, a long VAR delay led to the goal being given.
Nunez would get his chance to effect the scoreline soon enough. It was his header that struck the arm of Dias, leading to a Liverpool penalty eight minutes from time. The man they call ‘The Egyptian King’ on Merseyside, Mo Salah, tucked the ball low to Ederson’s left to give his side the lead.
Just when it looked like the old stager would define this curtain-raiser, Nunez acrobatically nodded home a Robertson knockdown to send an atmospheric King Power into raptures. Haaland struck the crossbar late, handing the victory in the first of many battles to his Liverpool counterpart.
This is likely to be just the first shot fired in another season-long showdown for the best two teams in the country. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are likely to lead their teams into battle across all fronts yet again. Last season’s top two deal almost exclusively in trophies these days and, with the first one going Liverpool’s way, revenge will be sought from the occupants of the Etihad.