Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes Darwin Nunez is now backing up his potential with goals after the Uruguay international proved the match-winner in a hard-fought contest against West Ham United on Wednesday.
Nunez, 23, has had a disjointed start to his Anfield career. The former Benfica striker scored in the Community Shield win over Manchester City and netted on his Premier League debut against Fulham.
However, he was sent off in his third Reds appearance, against Crystal Palace, but, having offered some promising cameos, is now turning it into tangible results.
His goal against the Hammers was his third in as many starts and his first-half performance alone, where he had five shots, scored one and hit the post with another, showed the threat he poses and his night.
Klopp said it was "important" for Nunez to get on the scoresheet, particularly with the German light on numbers in attack due to long-term injuries to Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota.
"He has scored now a couple of times in the last few games," Klopp said of his €70 million signing. "He arrived 100 per cent, now even with numbers, which is fine."
Nunez's night ended prematurely in the 57th minute, but Klopp explained his decision to withdraw his striker was as a precaution against injury.
“He felt a little bit the muscles at half time but it was all fine and after five minutes [of the second half] I was just a bit concerned about long sprints for him and balls where he stretches his legs.
“I thought, ‘Come on, we cannot take that risk’ and that’s why we changed. I think we caught it at the right moment.
“For sure not easy tonight but we played well enough – and in moments, really good. In the end, altogether, well enough to deserve three points.”
Liverpool v West Ham ratings
Klopp was also indebted to goalkeeper Alisson Becker for saving Jarrod Bowen’s penalty just before half time.
“I think the first half was a really good first half, with a bad ending for us with the penalty – but then with a good ending because Ali could save the penalty,” Klopp added.
“It still left a bit of a bad taste like we were lucky but first half we were not – we played an exceptional game.”
West Ham manager David Moyes, whose winless run at Anfield now stretches to 19 matches, felt they could have left with a point had it not been for Alisson, who also saved from Gianluca Scamacca five minutes from time.
“I’m disappointed at the end we didn’t go away with something, we had a big opportunity to do so,” he said.
“We didn’t set up quite right in the first half, got much better in the second, but even though we didn’t play well in the first half we had a threat and had chances.”