LEICESTER, England — Erling Haaland will have better days in a Manchester City shirt, you can be sure, but his first taste of English football saw him resoundingly overshadowed by Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez and City team-mate Julian Alvarez as the FA Cup holders claimed. a 3-1 Community Shield victory over last season’s Premier League champions at the King Power Stadium.
Few players in world football make as much noise as Haaland, the 22-year-old striker who moved to City from Borussia Dortmund in a €60m move earlier this summer. The Norway international had his pick of every big club in Europe before agreeing to join the Etihad and few expect him to do anything other than score a truckload of goals on his way to winning trophies galore with Pep Guardiola’s team.
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But Haaland had a start to forget against Liverpool. Not only did he fail to score, but he barely touched the ball, missed an easy chance in stoppage time by hitting the crossbar from six yards out and saw Nunez – the 75 million signing Benfica’s Liverpool Euros – left him firmly in the shadows with a dazzling substitute performance that delivered a goal, an assist and a thrilling showcase of the qualities he will bring to Jurgen Klopp’s side this season.
And then there was Alvarez, the 22-year-old signed from River Plate for €16million, who made an eye-catching debut for City by scoring the equalizer, nullifying Trent Alexander-Arnold’s opener in the first half. -time, having replaced Riyad Mahrez early. in the second half. While Nunez was explosive, determined and clinical, Alvarez showed his ability to hold the ball, let go and take advantage of tight spaces before showing the awareness of a striker by scoring from close range after goalkeeper Adrian pushed it back. Phil Foden’s shot in the 70th minute.
Haaland will undoubtedly score goals for City. So far his record for Dortmund, FC Salzburg and Molde has been so good that it would be foolish to suggest he will do anything but continue his goalscoring ratio at the Etihad. But it was a day when he faced one of the strongest sides in Europe, with defenders Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk one of the best partnerships in the game, so it was a tough baptism for Haaland. The space to run against defenders he often enjoyed in the Bundesliga was denied to him by Matip and Van Dijk, and any other red shirts that happened to be nearby. And when he can’t run in the final third with the goal in front of him, Haaland isn’t quite the same threat.
Nunez looked much sharper and much more capable of receiving the ball with his back to goal and moving defenders around, but Haaland and City are clearly learning how to work together. Mahrez failed to spot a clever run from Haaland in the first half, when the striker pulled his marker away, while Kevin De Bruyne waved his arms in frustration at his new team-mate when he pulled wide offside and made himself unavailable for a second pass. half.
And while Nunez was ready to run across the face of the 18-yard box, Haaland stayed within the tight confines of the central area of the pitch and that made him easier to choke on and may have explained why. he only managed 14 touches in 90 minutes. On that evidence – admittedly just 90 minutes – Haaland will offer City less when he doesn’t have the ball than Nunez will give Liverpool. Nunez just looks like a more complete player but that doesn’t mean he’ll score more goals and Guardiola insisted Haaland will deliver in the coming months.
“He didn’t score,” Guardiola said. “Another day he will score. He has incredible quality on that and he will.
“He fought a lot, made the moves. It’s good for him to see the reality of a new country, a new league, but he was there. He’s going to help us a lot. He had some occasions, he was there.”
Opponents who aren’t as accomplished may be blown away by Haaland if he has the space to hurt them, but ultimately he was signed to make the difference in close games, against Liverpool and in the Champions League. League, so he has yet to show that he can take this vital step. It’s hard to imagine Haaland failing to bring his game to this level, but he and City have some work to do to bring it together.
Liverpool appear to have less to do for Nunez to fill the void created by Sadio Mane’s summer move to Bayern Munich. His header, from Mohamed Salah’s cross in the 80th minute, led to Ruben Dias’ handball which, after a VAR review, resulted in a penalty from which Salah made it 2-1 at Liverpool. And Nunez then scored his goal with a diving header, four minutes into stoppage time, after Andy Robertson kicked him into the penalty area.
“We all know they are a special species, strikers,” Klopp said. “They all need goals and implications in goals. “He [Nunez] would have been fine without his goal as he created the penalty with his head and had a chance when the keeper reacted brilliantly. “His goal was the icing on the cake, brilliant for him and that’s a really good sign after his time with us.”
So in the battle for new signings, Nunez won his first meeting with Haaland and helped Liverpool to their first Community Shield success since 2006. But it’s a game that means little in the long run. How Nunez and Haaland fare in the Premier League and Champions League is what will truly define the success of their big moves.