Darwin Nunez started his first game for a month as Liverpool beat Fulham 1-0, with Jurgen Klopp praising the No. 27 for his role in the winning goal.
Nunez played 83 minutes as he started his first game since the 0-0 draw with Chelsea on April 4, winning the penalty for Mo Salah to make it 1-0.
While it was far from a stellar performance from Liverpool, Nunez included, the Reds got over the line and the striker showed one aspect of his game that is vital for Klopp.
The manager has repeatedly said the “ticket” into his starting XI is counter-pressing, and it was Nunez’s closing down that brought Liverpool’s only goal of the game.
Nunez combined his magnificent speed with his reading of the game to nip in front of an unaware Issa Diop and bring a foul inside the box.
Salah duly converted the spot-kick down the middle and Liverpool held out until the final whistle for their fifth win in a row.
“The penalty I love a lot because it’s a counter-pressing situation,” Klopp told reporters after the game.
“He was like a racehorse, going for everybody…
“He played a really good game. He was always a proper option for us, we need that.
“One of the main things we had to do tonight was to offer in behind. We had three really quick players.
“I liked the situation pretty early in the game when Mo received the ball deep and Darwin could go there.
“So, yeah, he played a good game.”
Klopp reinforced the message, saying: “Darwin was like a racehorse, really motivated, really on fire and that’s important to us.”
The match against Fulham was the first time that Salah, Nunez and Luis Diaz had started together since the Reds’ 3-2 loss at Arsenal in October.
The Liverpool manager explained his selection process for the match and admitted he “liked what he saw” from his forwards.
Klopp said: “We should not forget, you can see with Luis that after 30 minutes, you can see it’s really tough for him.
“It’s tough for everybody, we’ve played a lot of games. We had the discussion with the coaches: ‘Who should we rest? Is it Cody?’.”
The Reds’ manager added: “Diogo couldn’t train again.
“He had a knock in the back. I hope that’s now better because he has a proper bruise in the ribs, so it’s really painful.
“When Diogo and Cody game on, they were really, in the defensive work, extremely involved.”