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Mac’s genius & defensive solidity – 5 talking points from Forest 0-1 Liverpool

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Darwin Nunez headed a 99th-minute winner to extend Liverpool’s lead at the Premier League summit with a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.

Nottingham Forest 0-1 Liverpool

Premier League (27), City Ground
March 2, 2024

Goals: Nunez 90+9′


A game too far for Reds – not!

With the clock at the City Ground showing 98 minutes gone, this reporter is not ashamed to admit he was preparing a post-match summary that described this as a game too far for a Liverpool side that has been decimated by injuries of late.

2WNFH9J Liverpool's Darwin Nunez celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool at City ground in Nottingham, England, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

The Reds have coped magnificently with the loss of countless stars during the last couple of months, but it felt like the struggles here simply underlined that you will always need your best players eventually.

In many ways, that was actually proven to be true, with Nunez striking a dramatic winner on his first appearance in four games.

Either way, that goal not only earned Liverpool three crucial points, but also bought them more time in which to get important players back, with Mohamed Salah and Ryan Gravenberch understood to be closest.

The hope now will be that the ‘game too far’ never comes, with the Reds coming through the worst of their injury crisis having kept the wins rolling in.

 

Mac Allister a genius

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 2, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the end, it was absolutely no surprise that the winning moment came courtesy of a beautifully weighted pass from Alexis Mac Allister, a man who had been by some distance Liverpool’s best performer on the day.

The Argentine always looked to be the Reds’ biggest creative threat, a status he underlined with two wonderful dinked balls in the first half that Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz should have done more with.

Those represented two of six chances created at the City Ground and and were part of the 57 passes completed by Mac Allister at the City Ground.

He also combined this with five defensive actions and contested 11 duels in an all action showing that provided the platform for Liverpool to win it late on.

It is worth remembering that Brighton earned just £35 million from the deal to bring the World Cup winner to Anfield last summer and, even more than it did at the time, that now looks like the steal of the century.

 

Defensive solidity crucial again

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk (L) and Ibrahima Konaté celebrate after the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. Liverpool won 4-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Of course, you only get the chance to win games 1-0 at the death if you do everything to ensure that a clean sheet is kept, and Liverpool absolutely did that here.

Nottingham Forest may have had the odd moment of threat on the break, but that was perhaps to be expected given the patched-up nature of their opponent’s midfield.

And even so, the hosts still managed just two shots on target for a total of 1.05xG, with their biggest opportunity quite possibly coming from an offside position.

To his credit, Caoimhin Kelleher saved that impressively, while Virgil van Dijk (4/5 duels won) and Ibrahima Konate (7/12) were absolutely rock solid in the face of Forest’s physical threat.

It is this sort of strong basis that was lacking last season, when Liverpool went down to a 1-0 defeat at the City Ground rather than coming through to win by that scoreline.

 

Nunez silences Forest fans

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 2, 2024: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the winning goal in the ninth minute of injury time during the FA Premier League match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Nottingham Forest fans tried their best to disrupt Darwin Nunez following his introduction as a substitute in describing him as a ‘sh*t Andy Carroll’.

But as Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports after the match: “I would not sing that song. I would not try to wind Darwin up.”

We are surely reaching the point where opposition supporters accept that it is not worth trying to get into the head of a man who is fast emerging as one of the Premier League‘s best forwards.

If anything, it only makes him angry, as we have seen countless times including here, that is when he tends to be at his best.

 

Credit to Clark and Gomez

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 7, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp prepares to bring on substitute Bobby Clark during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

They may not have put in performances that they will look back at as the best of their careers in a few years time, but huge credit should go to Bobby Clark and Joe Gomez.

Making just his first Premier League start, Clark contested nine duels, posted five defensive actions, and made it as difficult as he could for Forest to play through the middle.

Gomez, meanwhile, won five of his 10 duels, put in seven defensive actions, and even created two chances in an unfamiliar holding midfield role.

The weaknesses they showed – Clark, physicality; Gomez, positioning – were to be entirely expected given what was being asked of them, and yet they did enough to help Liverpool to the win.

Klopp will know that this result wouldn’t have been possible without two such unselfish showings from players being asked to take on a difficult job.