Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez scored a brace each in Liverpool’s 7-0 rout of Manchester United in the Premier League. But, it was the timing of both their opening strikes that changed the course of the match in the Red’s favour.
Enjoying a good start in front of a booming Anfield crowd, Liverpool looked the more threatening side, but surprisingly, was not able to get a single shot on target, whereas Man United already had three- albeit not dangerous ones.
However, Liverpool’s incessant pressure bore fruit just before the break.
How Gakpo and Nunez impacted the game – the timing of their strikes
For Cody Gakpo, who arrived at Liverpool in the January window, it was his first appearance in the historic derby against United. Scouted and pursued by the Red Devils themselves, Liverpool won the race for Gakpo’s signature.
Until the 42nd minute, despite the overall dominance, Jurgen Klopp’s team had nothing to show for their efforts. However, the belligerent Reds struck the first nail in United’s coffin in the 43rd minute of the match.
Andrew Robertson spotted an opening in the United defence and found Gakpo with a well-measured through ball.
Gakpo, who had timed his run to perfection, was an epitome of confidence as he strode inside the United box, cut inside Varane and finished in the bottom-right corner for Liverpool’s first goal.
A crucial goal just before half-time, Gakpo’s strike marred all the good work United had done in the first half and left Erik Ten Hag with having to change his half-time team talk.
Gakpo scored his second goal to make it 3-0, and by that time, United looked like a shadow of its usual self, completely devoid of confidence.
Darwin Nunez’s first goal also came at a crucial time for Liverpool.
United resumed with a renewed belief, knowing it can turn things around in the second half. An early goal in the second half by Ten Hag’s men would have spelt trouble for the home side, but United caused its downfall courtesy of shoddy defending, and Nunez capitalised.
Just 88 seconds into the second half, both Casemiro and Luke Shaw lost possession cheaply which led to a scramble inside the United box.
Shaw could not clear his line, and Harvey Elliott pinged a cross to Nunez from the right, who rifled a header inside the net from a close distance to make it 2-0 for Liverpool.
This was a big blow as far as morale was concerned.
United needed to set the tone early in the second half to garner a favourable result, but Nunez’s strike titled the match further for Liverpool’s side, and it was just the start of the leak in United’s ship that ultimately caused it to submerge with a 7-0 defeat.
Nunez scored his second goal to make it 5-0 in the 75th minute. By that time, the situation was so bad for United that even damage limitation was not a suitable option for Ten Hag.
Slowly gaining pace
Both Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez did not have the fastest of starts to their Liverpool career.
For Gakpo, who was a winter arrival, it took him three appearances in the league to score his first goal against Everton in the Merseyside derby.
Currently, he has scored four goals in 12 appearances for the Reds, which are not the most prolific numbers, considering the form he was enjoying for PSV Eindhoven before the World Cup.
However, Gakpo is slowly adjusting to life in England, and shades of his class are becoming visible by the day, especially in terms of recovering from his poor start.
In his first six appearances for the club, Gakpo did not have a single goal. Four more appearances later, he has the same number of strikes.
Darwin Nunez has 14 goals in 31 appearances for the Reds. His Liverpool start had shades of extreme contrast.
While he scored in his first game against Manchester City in the 3-1 Community Shield win, he had to wait till his 11th appearance to score his first league goal for Liverpool, that too in a 3-2 defeat against Arsenal.
He was slapped with a three-match suspension early in the season, which saw him miss Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat against Man United at Old Trafford.
While the Uruguayan international has started to find the net, consistency has been a thorn in Nunez’s journey towards shining in a Liverpool shirt.
With a brace each against bitter rival Manchester United, this big win might be the catalyst Gakpo and Nunez needed to kick-start their Liverpool career and go full-throttle with time.
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