The Liverpool fans were absolutely ecstatic in the Transfer Tavern last night after watching their side run rampant at Anfield by recording a 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
Liverpool’s clash with City was a difficult game to call pre-match, but even the most optimistic of Liverpool supporters would have ruled out the possibility of racing into a 3-0 half-time lead. But Jurgen Klopp’s side defied expectation and shocked the travelling Citizens once again this season to put themselves firmly in the driving seat ahead of the second-leg clash next Wednesday evening.
The Reds’ victory arrived courtesy of strikes from Mo Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane, but it was their defensive performance which was perhaps the most impressive component of their display on an evening where City failed to create any clear cut chances. The entirety of Liverpool’s team deserve credit for that, but the performance of Virgil Van Dijk (valued at £45 million by Transfermarkt) is worthy of a special mention.
Van Dijk arrived at the club with the weight of expectation on his shoulders after completing a £75 million transfer from Southampton, and so far he has proven that the club were wise to complete a deal for his services, even for a world-record fee. The Dutch international has installed solidity into a defence which had previously been consistently inconsistent and easy to breach – a fact which was further illuminated by his excellent performance at the heart of Liverpool’s back-four last night.
Manchester City are a side who have repeatedly demonstrated a level of attacking potency which is unrivalled in world football this season, but they were almost completely nullified by Liverpool’s defence last night on a frustrating evening for the club. Van Dijk’s ability to stifle the impact of Jesus in the centre-forward position and organise his defence to ensure that Liverpool remained compact and impenetrable all evening long stood out as two pivotal reasons for City’s struggle in the final-third.
Individually Van Dijk has plenty of qualities to bring to the table, but the overall impact he has on improving the defensive players around him is one of his most defining assets. Liverpool have not only acquired an intelligent defender with brilliant technical ability, but they have also acquired a leader of men who can single-handedly bring the best out of the players around him.
If he continues to perform in the same vein as he did against Guardiola’s city slickers, there is no doubt he will eventually justify his record-breaking price-tag in the seasons to come.
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