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CL hits and misses: Everything but the goal for Nunez

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Nunez oozes star quality Image: Liverpool's Darwin Nunez and Rangers' Connor Goldson challenge for the ball

Liverpool hit cruise control and the rest was fairly routine. They strolled to a 2-0 victory at Anfield, only needing to reach a canter during entries into Rangers' often unguarded box. The result looked to be a forgone conclusion from the first whistle, with Jurgen Klopp unusually opting to sacrifice a midfield body to bolster his attacking charges. It had the desired effect.

The most entertaining, or perhaps captivating, battle of the evening turned out to unfold between Darwin Nunez and the Gers' veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who deserves a medal for reducing the scoring to a respectable pace.

Klopp had assured big-money signing Nunez he need not worry about form or numbers before the game, both would come in time, but the striker's insistence to improve in both brackets was desperately clear. And had it not been for McGregor running interference, there would have been tangible improvements.

Nunez had more shots than any other Liverpool player on the night (six) - the most any Reds player has managed without scoring in a group-stage game since Sadio Mane against Red Bull Salzburg in December 2019.

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His movement was intelligent, thriving as the focal point of a formation geared towards attacking efficacy. It was built around the 23-year-old's strengths, loading the frontline with inventiveness and creativity in order to generate a consistent supply. He was central to Liverpool's overall dominance.

Speaking after the game, Klopp recalled a particular "favourite moment" in which the Uruguayan made a darting run into the box in an attempt to cut the ball back for his onrushing strike partners. The work he did was selfless and selfish in equal measure. "We saw how good he is in these situations," his manager said.

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His snapshot, a mere two minutes into the game, was a sign of things to come as Nunez peppered McGregor's goal. The breakthrough proved elusive, but the performance was packed to the brim with drive and endeavour.

While his bedding-in period has not been quite as seamless as notable other Premier League strikers, signed in the summer at lavish price points, his quality is undoubted and his stature will grow with every opportunity he is afforded. Given time, he will earn his rightful moment in the spotlight.
Laura Hunter

Spurs missing Kool-usevski Image: Tottenham stuttered to a 0-0 draw in Frankfurt

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg articulated Tottenham's main issue against Frankfurt perfectly.

He told BT Sport: "We prepared well up until the 18-yard box, finding the spaces well to get in behind them. We needed to breathe and then put it in."

Spurs played with much more spark, enthusiasm and bravery than in their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday but the same underlying problem haunted their game. A lack of coolness.

Heung-Min Son was the guiltiest party, making rash and rushed decisions either with his finishing or that killer last pass. Despite his tubthumping hat-trick against Leicester, it is not really happening for him this season. All three shots against Frankfurt failed to hit the target and although his first-half effort following a fantastic flick from Harry Kane was inches from finding the top corner it was still a rather snatched effort. As his team-mate Hojbjerg referenced, taking a breath may help the South Korean in those moments.

Dejan Kulusevski is someone who is a master of taking care of that final ball and his hamstring injury issue is becoming a worry looking at the last 180 minutes of action that has only seen Spurs score from the penalty spot. They are usually a deadly clinical side but without the influence of their flying winger - whose assist record in the Premier League (11) is only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne since his debut on February 5 - Spurs are lacking the required guile.
Lewis Jones

Conte a true Royalist Image: Emerson Royal kept his place for Tottenham but failed to impress

A quick click in the comments under Tottenham's release of their team news for the clash with Frankfurt told you all you need to know about the general feeling regarding the selection of Emerson Royal.

Twitter can be a less-than-reliable place to gauge such opinions from a fanbase but the amount of likes on negative reactions to the wing-back keeping his place spoke volumes. There was a bit of the straw that broke the camel's back about his needless sending off at Arsenal. Surely this would be the tipping point for his seemingly automatic place in Antonio Conte's first team after a prolonged spell of distinctly-average performances and his recent lack of discipline? With Matt Doherty and Djed Spence waiting in the wings and Royal set to miss the next three domestic games due to suspension, this looked to be a great opportunity to get his replacement up to speed.

Yet, as Conte said in his press conference: "Fans are fans." And he knows what he is doing.

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With that comment in mind, the Italian could have done with Royal being more influential than he was in the 0-0 with Frankfurt. He was by no means as sloppy as he can be but apart from an early dipping volley the game rather passed him by down the right flank. He was busy but failed to stamp any authority or class on the game.

In a Conte system the wing-backs are so crucial to the creative output and there remains a strong feeling the presence of Royal is stunting the way Spurs construct attacks down that side, especially without Kulusevski. He will now be missing for the next three Premier League games and those in the Twitterati will get their wish of a Royal-free Spurs right-hand flank.
Lewis Jones

Alexander-Arnold shows his class again Image: Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Rangers

Even before the ball had been struck, there was a sense around Anfield that this was heading for the corner. Such is the confidence in Trent Alexander-Arnold when he has time to pick out his spot. He did just that for Liverpool's opener in their 2-0 win over Rangers.

"It was a wonderful goal," said Jurgen Klopp afterwards. "I am happy that he still has that in his locker," he joked, referencing the wait since his last one. It was high quality and puts the focus back on his talent after all the speculation about his defensive deficiencies.

And yet, maybe this is a dance that we are destined to do throughout his career. Liverpool's dominant display against Rangers did not test Alexander-Arnold too much defensively and it is on that aspect of the game that the criticism is focused. Did this tell us anything new?

Maybe it did. Klopp decided to tweak his system for this game. Not because of Rangers, in particular, although he did acknowledge that the Scottish side's strength is the left side. Regardless of the opponent, Liverpool have been struggling to shut it down on that flank.

"We set it up differently," he explained. "We take risks in defence, everyone knows that. It leaves gaps. Those gaps are behind Trent, but not because of him. That is why we adjusted slightly." More cover. The result? "He played a good game, defensively especially."

But it was that strike that showed why he is such a special player, one who can win games for one of the best teams in the world from full-back. He might have had an assist too had Virgil van Dijk not glanced his header wide. He left to a standing ovation. It was deserved.
Adam Bate

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