Virgil van Dijk has said Darwin Núñez needs to control himself after being sent off for violent conduct on his full Premier League debut for Liverpool. The Uruguay international was “really stupid” to leave Liverpool with 10 men against Crystal Palace, according to Joachim Anderson, the defender on the receiving end of Núñez’s headbutt at Anfield on Monday.
Liverpool, who are already without forwards Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota because of injury, will lose their main summer signing for Premier League games against Manchester United, Bournemouth and Newcastle. He will not be available until the Merseyside derby at Everton on September 3th.
Van Dijk said the 23-year-old, the first Liverpool player to be dismissed for violent conduct during Jürgen Klopp’s tenure, has the backing of his teammates but must ensure the moment of madness does not happen again.
“He has to control himself, definitely,” said the Liverpool defender. “He has to manage himself [and] he has to be knowing that these things can happen, especially in the Premier League. Obviously he was disappointed and also probably with himself. But it’s a learning curve and we will always back him. He knows it should not happen again and hopefully it will be that way.”
Núñez will undergo an extended pre-season training programme during his suspension, with Klopp planning to hold talks with the forward over his loss of self-control. The striker aimed two headbutts at Andersen in the 57th minute of the 1-1 draw, and the Palace defender claimed Núñez was easily riled.
Andersen said: “The whole game I sat really close to him, I annoyed him a lot and did well against him. I think that’s why he was angry with me. He headbutted me, the first one, at a cross, and I told him he shouldn’t do that. I was angry with him. Then he did it again which is, for me, really stupid, so it’s a clear red card.”
Liverpool have failed to win their opening two matches of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2012-13, and already trail Manchester City by four points. Van Dijk knows Liverpool will be prematurely written off after the disappointing start but says they can ignore the outside noise and draw encouragement from their display against Palace.
The Netherlands captain said: “I don’t want to blame different things. We want to perform well but it’s funny because we played the Community Shield and won and everyone was saying loads of other things and now we have drawn twice and people will write us off. But that’s the outside world and we concentrate on what we can influence and that’s our performance.
“It was, especially with 10 men, a great performance. We put them under pressure, made them nervous, let them kick long balls. That’s something we have to learn from, keep going, but we want to win and we’ll look for that in the next game.
“We put them under pressure, we took a lot of risk because we had to score the equaliser and were hoping to get the winner. But we should not come with 10 men, it should not happen.”
Luis Díaz scored a superb equaliser for Liverpool four minutes after Nunez’s dismissal and Van Dijk believes the Colombia international has much more to offer this season. “Luis is a fantastic player,” he said. “It’s something we need and he provided that bit of special action and he can be so much better.” – Guardian