Virgil van Dijk said new Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez must learn to “control himself” after being sent off for a reckless headbutt during Monday night’s 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace. The 23-year-old Uruguayan, who signed from Benfica in June, was shown a straight red card in the 57th minute at Anfield for his foul on Joachim Andersen and faces a three-match ban.
Colombia’s Luis Diaz scored a brilliant equaliser after Liverpool were reduced to 10 men to cancel out Wilfried Zaha’s first-half opener.
But the draw meant more dropped points for Jurgen Klopp’s team, who have just two points after their first two matches of the Premier League season.
Klopp is already short of attacking options – Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino were absent from the squad for the Palace game and Nunez will now miss games against Manchester United, Bournemouth and Newcastle. Van Dijk said Nunez had the support of his teammates but must learn to stay calm. “He’s got the backing from us and he knows it should not happen again and hopefully it will be that way,” said the defender.
“He has to control himself, definitely. I think that’s a separate thing. He has to manage himself, he has to be knowing that these things can happen, especially in the Premier League. It will be a learning curve for him and hopefully it will never happen again.”
Andersen was booked following the clash that led to Nunez’s dismissal and some Liverpool fans felt he had deliberately provoked the striker. The Palace defender revealed yesterday that he had received death threats and social media abuse since the incident.
He is reported to have asked Palace’s police liaison officer and the Premier League to investigate. “Got maybe 300-400 of these messages last night,” the Dane posted to his Instagram story. “I understand you support a team but have some respect and stop acting tough online. Hope Instagram and the Premier League do something about this.”
Liverpool, who have been involved in a series of tight Premier League tussles with Manchester City in recent years, are already four points behind the defending champions and leaders. But Dutch international Van Dijk said it was too early to make firm predictions.
“We’ve played two games so far this season and there’s still a long way to go so anything can happen,” he said.
“That’s been shown over the last years so we’ll focus on ourselves. We don’t read what the others from the outside say about us because nobody knows what’s really going on.”
Nunez had scored in his first two appearances against City in the Community Shield and in rescuing a point as a substitute in a 2-2 draw away at Fulham last weekend. But the Uruguayan’s headbutt on Andersen left his side with an uphill challenge in the match and increasing ground to make up already in the title race.
“He knows that now himself,” said Jurgen Klopp when asked if Nunez had let his teammates down. “Of course it was a red card. He was provoked but that is not how he should behave.”
Liverpool partly dug themselves out of a hole thanks to Diaz’s brilliant equaliser and Klopp said he was bursting with pride at how the 10 men reacted after a difficult week caused by an early-season injury crisis. Apart from Firmino and Jota, Thiago Alcantara, Joel Matip and Ibrahima Konate were all sidelined, while Joe Gomez was only fit enough for an appearance off the bench.
Nat Phillips was forced to make his first Premier League appearance since the final day of the 2020/21 season at centre-back, while Klopp had no options to refresh his attack late in the game. “The real feeling I have at the moment is pride,” added Klopp. “With the week’s preparation we had it was unbelievable. It was like a witch was in the building, every time someone else had a problem.”
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