Darwin Núñez sees red before Luis Díaz gives Liverpool a draw with Crystal Palace

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Darwin Nunez sent a message on his full Premier League debut and just added to Liverpool’s woes in this fledgling campaign. The £64m new striker showed Anfield and rival defenders everywhere that he can easily rise to provocation by receiving a straight red card and a three-match ban for Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen’s header. Nunez lost his head precisely at the moment when Liverpool needed him to use it wisely.

Just two games but four points behind Manchester City, Liverpool’s start to the season has brought Jürgen Klopp one headache after another. His team’s performance against Palace was not at the top of the list. Liverpool largely dominated against Patrick Vieira’s side and moved impressively after Nunez’s silly loss of control, Luis Diaz leveled in spectacular style after Wilfried Zaha’s first half. But with injury problems showing no signs of abating and given the exacting demands of a title challenge, the loss of the Uruguayan international was galling for Klopp. Nunez is the first Liverpool player to be sent off for violent conduct during his tenure. His manager needs him to learn from the mistake and learn fast.

Related: Liverpool v Crystal Palace: Premier League – live!

Liverpool gambled on a goal that would have caused delirium at Anfield, but Vieira’s determined side defended with a clear head and impressive spirit to end a 10-match losing streak against Klopp’s side. The visitors worked tirelessly without the ball and could have picked up the three points late through Zaha or Andersen.

There were further additions to Liverpool’s already extensive injury list ahead of their first home game of the season. Joël Matip joined central defender Ibrahima Konaté on the sidelines with a muscle injury and, with Joe Gomez only fit enough for the bench after a recent problem, Nat Phillips made his first Premier League start since May 2021. It was Phillips’ first start alongside Virgil van Dijk and he marked his return by earning two imposing headers within the first 14 seconds. Roberto Firmino was also absent.

Liverpool’s opening day performance at Fulham was vastly improved following the introduction of Nunez and they started with an intensity and focus that was absent in the first half at Craven Cottage. The hosts should have won after a minute when Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita sent a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross to James Milner under pressure from Liverpool’s new centre-forward. Milner reacted sharply but fended off a clear opening on Guaita’s goal.

Luis Díaz reacts after his sensational equalizing goal for Liverpool. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Nunez also missed a decent chance after Van Dijk and Alexander-Arnold stretched Palace out with long, accurate passes. Andersen managed to block Harvey Elliott’s shot, giving Alexander-Arnold another chance to cross. He found Nunez wide open at the far post but, perhaps surprised by Palace’s lack of heading, the striker sent a clumsy volley high and wide.

Liverpool were understandably keen to use the height of their new striker addition and regularly swept crosses behind the Palace defender, but there was variety in their early dominance. The connection between Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah ensured a grueling night for Tyrick Mitchell at left-back, while Nunez also displayed an immediate and encouraging rapport with the Egypt international. The Uruguayan’s movement off the ball also impressed. For 57 minutes anyway.

Palace were not only beleaguered for the first half hour, their struggle to retain possession or win either 50-50 distracted Vieira. Klopp’s irritation seemed trivial by comparison, the Liverpool manager turning to the crowd and putting his finger to his lips after they cheered on a highly ambitious Van Dijk shot from 30 metres. All of which explained why the Palace advance was so shocking.

The visitors had barely had a chance to fight back through Zaha until Guaita cleared Eberechi Eze inside the mid-Palace. Eze controlled superbly, backing away from Fabinho’s hesitant challenge and releasing Zaha into acres of space behind Phillips. Palace’s lone striker slipped into goal and beat Alisson with a clinical and powerful strike into the far corner.

Wilfried Zaha fires the ball past Alisson Becker to put Crystal Palace ahead

Wilfried Zaha shoots the ball past Alisson Becker to put Crystal Palace ahead. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Minutes later, Zaha came close to doubling Palace’s impressive lead when Cheick Doucouré once again broke up Liverpool’s central defence. However, a strong first touch undermined the goalscorer’s chances of repeating the goal, and Alisson saved Zaha’s shot at close range. Vieira’s team was lucky enough to thank them for keeping their lead until the break. The final act of the first half saw Elliott drop Nunez into the box with a delicious chip. As the striker prepared to shoot, Doucouré dove in with a crucial touch, deflecting the ball past his own goalkeeper but into the far post.

Liverpool’s problems increased when Núñez saw a red card for a header on Andersen. Problems had been brewing between the pair for some time and when the defender shoved Nunez in the back after an argument, the striker foolishly took the bait. He shoved his head into Anderson’s face, who collapsed in theatrical style, giving referee Paul Tierney no choice but to show a red card.

Anfield erupted with a sense of misplaced grievance and their team fed on the backing. Four minutes after the dismissal, and three days after Klopp had backed Diaz up to the goal, the Colombian international responded with a superb goal that set up a thrilling finish. Diaz, who received the ball wide to the left, made his way between five white shirts on the edge of the penalty area before launching a right that sailed over Guaita into the Palacio goal.

Klopp went berserk in front of the main stand, the relief palpable, but the first victory of the season proved elusive. Zaha could have won for Palace in the dying moments, but Doucouré’s cross volley hit the post from close range.

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