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Winners & Losers

Nunez is back in the goals! Liverpool winners, losers and ratings as Thiago delivers masterclass in Dubai

21:15 GMT+3 16/12/2022
Darwin Nunez 2022
Mohamed Salah was among those on target as Jurgen Klopp's side finished their Dubai Super Cup campaign with a 4-1 win over AC Milan

Darwin Nunez made a goalscoring return to action as Liverpool finished their Dubai Super Cup campaign with a 4-1 win over AC Milan.

The Uruguay international netted twice after replacing Roberto Firmino for the final half hour at the Al-Maktoum Stadium, on a night when both Mohamed Salah and Thiago Alcantara were also on target.

Salah gave the Reds a fifth-minute lead, finishing off after fine work from Joel Matip, but Alexis Saelemaekers' low strike drew the Serie A champions level.

Thiago restored Liverpool's advantage before half-time, arrowing a fine effort into the bottom corner from 25 yards, and Jurgen Klopp's side continued to dominate despite a raft of second-half changes.

One of them was Nunez, and he wrapped up the game in the final eight minutes, first converting coolly after a brilliant pass from fellow sub Bobby Clark, and then finishing from close range after good play from another teenage starlet, Ben Doak.

The game won, Liverpool then missed the chance to add a bonus point to their tally as they were beaten 4-3 in a penalty shootout, with Kostas Tsimikas and Naby Keita both denied from the spot.

Here, GOAL runs through the winners and losers from the Reds' final warm-up game before the season resumes...

  • Thiago Liverpool 2022

    The Winners

    Thiago Alcantara:

    In full flow, there are few footballers more pleasing on the eye than Thiago, and the Spaniard gave something of a masterclass here, displaying his full array of talent in front of a drooling audience.

    The game was less than four minutes old when he picked up possession in his own half, flicked the ball up and speared a volleyed pass out to Andy Robertson. Soon after, he was spraying it to James Milner on the opposite flank. Fifty yards, pinpoint.

    Just before half time, he was on the scoresheet, controlling the ball 25 yards out and firing an unstoppable low half-volley into the far corner. Technique personified, that one.

    Stefan Bajcetic:

    Liverpool's midfield may be in need of an overhaul, but this lad certainly looks like he's ready to be part of its future.

    At 18, Bajcetic has already begun to establish himself as part of Jurgen Klopp's first-team squad, and his showing here suggests there will be plenty more to come.

    Pep Lijnders believes the Spanish U19 international has "all the attributes needed" to be a top-class No.6 for the Reds, and it is noticeable just how comfortable the former Celta Vigo prospect looks in a position which demands a lot in terms of concentration, maturity and discipline.

    Bajcetic's positional play, his anticipation and ability to hoover up second balls, is already at a very high level, and he plays with a confidence, composure and awareness which is way beyond his tender years.

    His physicality will improve, and will need to, as he gets older, and he must still overcome big hurdles if he is to become a permanent fixture in a side which will hope to be challenging for the biggest prizes in the coming years.

    But so far, so very promising.

    Darwin Nunez:

    Welcome back, Darwin! After disappointment in Qatar came a promising return to action in Dubai, as Nunez wasted no time at all in picking up where he left off for Liverpool prior to the World Cup.

    The Uruguay international needed only half an hour to make his mark here, scoring twice to put the seal on a good victory for his side, and offering good omens for his manager ahead of the big restart.

    Nunez had already stung the palms of Antonio Mirante, the veteran Milan goalkeeper, by the time he found himself on the end of a quite wonderful pass from youngster Bobby Clark. He stayed calm, slotting home low inside the near post to make it 3-1.

    Then came a simple second, converted from close range after a driving run and selfless cross from Ben Doak, a 17-year-old whose early first-team forays suggest will have a big future in the game.

    Nunez capped his promising cameo by scoring, somehow, from the spot in the penalty shootout, and with Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota both sidelined until well into the New Year, Liverpool need their £64m man to keep up this kind of form.

  • Joe Gomez Liverpool 2022

    The Losers

    Andy Robertson:

    Milan's equaliser is not a goal Robertson will want to see again.

    Having initially been unlucky to be caught just underneath the crossfield pass from left to right, the Scotland captain simply had to do more, one-v-one against Alexis Saelemaekers.

    Instead, he allowed the Belgian international, who narrowly missed out on a place at the World Cup, to work his way into the box, where he was able to fire a low, left-footed strike past Caoimhin Kelleher into the corner.

    Robertson had his hands up apologising soon after, as a wayward pass led to another Milan chance, and he will know he can play far better generally than he did here.

    Mind you, best to get them out the way before the real stuff starts back up.

    Joe Gomez:

    We already know who the centre-backs will be when Liverpool take on Manchester City in the Carabao Cup next week.

    With Virgil van Dijk not due back until Monday, and with Ibrahima Konate currently preparing for the World Cup final, it will be Gomez and Joel Matip, surely, who line up at the Etihad.

    Klopp, then, will have wanted to see them look assured against strong opposition here, but while Matip looked the part, defending sharply and setting up the opening goal for Mohamed Salah, Gomez's afternoon was a little more concerning.

    Where was he going, 90 seconds in, when Liverpool's defence was cut open by the most straightforward of passes through the middle of the field? Marko Lazetic let him off the hook with a poor finish, but Erling Haaland won't be quite so generous, one suspects.

    Gomez has not had a great season so far - although he saved his best performance for City's visit to Anfield in October - and you'd have to say he's fourth-choice at present, with Van Dijk, Konate and Matip all offering greater stability and consistency.

    Curtis Jones:

    Liverpool's home-grown midfielder was nowhere to be seen here, as his season of frustration continues.

    Jones has managed only six appearances, and only two starts, since being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his tibia following the Community Shield in July, and though he was part of the 33-man squad which travelled to Dubai, he has not been able to train fully and therefore played no part in either of the Reds' fixtures.

    Sources have told GOAL that the club are simply being cautious with the 21-year-old - "managing his load," as one put it - but with midfield options already thin on the ground, and games coming thick and fast once the season restarts next week, Jones once more finds himself playing catch-up.

  • Matip Liverpool 2022

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Caoimhin Kelleher (6/10):

    Helpless with the goal. Otherwise untroubled. Distribution was good.

    James Milner (7/10):

    Showed all his class and experience at full-back, where he defended with poise and attacked with regularity.

    Joel Matip (7/10):

    Marauding Matip is back! Great burst forward to create the opening goal for Salah. Defended well on the front foot.

    Joe Gomez (5/10):

    Still doesn't look entirely comfortable. Caught out by a straight pass inside two minutes, and his distribution was scratchy.

    Andy Robertson (5/10):

    Caught out for the Milan equaliser and delivered a few loose passes. Can play better.

  • Bajcetic Liverpool 2022

    Midfield

    Stefan Bajcetic (7/10):

    Positionally good, won lots of second balls and played with composure and confidence. A proper talent.

    Thiago Alcantara (8/10):

    A joy to watch at times with his passing and technique. Beautiful goal to make it 2-1.

    Harvey Elliott (7/10):

    Always bright, and rarely wasteful. Liverpool's best stuff came when he got involved.

  • Mo Salah Liverpool 2022

    Attack

    Mohamed Salah (7/10):

    Lively from the off, opening the scoring inside five minutes and connecting well with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino and Elliott in particular.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6/10):

    Positive enough performance from the left flank. He looked dangerous drifting infield, worked hard and linked up well with Salah and Firmino.

    Roberto Firmino (5/10):

    In and out. A few nice touches and a few loose ones.

  • Darwin Nunez Liverpool 2022

    Subs & Manager

    Adrian (6/10):

    Beaten by El Hilali's strike, which cannoned off the crossbar. Saved from Adli in the shootout but let Bakayoko's effort go under his body.

    Kostas Tsimikas (6/10):

    Usual blur of energy at left back. Denied in the shootout.

    Naby Keita (6/10):

    More minutes in the tank for a player who needs to get a run of games under his belt. Got plenty of touches and looked bright. Saw his penalty saved.

    Fabio Carvalho (6/10):

    Neat and tidy. Scored his penalty.

    Melkamu Frauendorf (5/10):

    A run-out at right-back for the teenager. Loads of energy.

    Darwin Nunez (8/10):

    Welcomed back after his World Cup disappointment with Uruguay in some style. Finished off a brilliant Clark pass and then was there to convert Doak's cross from close range. He was scoring before he left for Qatar, and he picked up where he left off here. We won't talk about the penalty...

    Nat Phillips (6/10):

    Kept it simple, as he usually does.

    Dom Corness (6/10):

    A couple of lovely sprays off his left foot.

    Bobby Clark (7/10):

    What. A. Pass. Fantastic assist for Nunez, and cool as you like in the shootout. This kid can play.

    Ben Doak (7/10):

    Only on for a few minutes, but still found time to terrify the Milan defence, smash a shot against the post, set up a goal for Nunez and then nearly grab one himself. He's only 17.

    Jarell Quansah (N/A):

    Came on very late.