Virgil van Dijk silences all doubts to finally get what he deserves at Liverpool – Ian Doyle

As the house followers contained in the Estadio de la Ceramica bounced with delight and the Villarreal gamers celebrated round him, the tv cameras reduce to Virgil van Dijk.

The Liverpool defender was livid, glancing round on the jubilation within the stands and his dishevelled team-mates earlier than loudly exclaiming his frustration at what was changing into an alarming evening.

Francis Coquelin, in the meantime, was doing a close to lap of the stadium as he pointed repeatedly to an imaginary watch on his wrist. Lower than 41 minutes in, the Spanish aspect had worn out the Reds’ two-goal benefit and have been on the point of an ideal European comeback.

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Van Dijk – carrying the captain’s armband with Jordan Henderson beginning on the bench – had been one of many few Reds gamers to method something like his regular stage throughout a tumultuous first half. However even the Dutchman, whereas ably assisted by centre-back companion Ibrahima Konate, could not cease the Yellow Submarine flooding ahead. Liverpool have been in peril of sinking.

Coquelin, although, was proper to level out the time. There was nonetheless a second half to play and, with Jurgen Klopp’s personnel modifications and tactical reminders completely vindicated, Van Dijk’s calm assurance on the again and aerial dominance offered the inspiration for Liverpool to finish a outstanding turnaround.

So it was a really completely different Van Dijk that greeted the ultimate whistle, thrusting his arms into the air in exhausted delight earlier than trotting over to the away finish to have a good time Liverpool’s restoration and one other Champions League last. It was not dissimilar to his quick response when, on the penultimate hurdle, Roma in 2018 and Barcelona 12 months later have been negotiated.

Small marvel. Success has come comparatively late for Van Dijk, definitely compared to defensive colleagues Konate – nonetheless but to lose as a Liverpool participant – Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. The Dutchman hadn’t even featured in a Champions League knockout match earlier than arriving at Liverpool in January 2018, a curious truth for a participant regarded by many as the perfect defender on this planet.

And that sense of constructing up for misplaced time has utilized significantly to this season, with Van Dijk having missed many of the earlier marketing campaign as a consequence of a severe knee damage.

There was, after all, no assure the Dutchman, now 30, would ever recuperate the imperiously constant type proven earlier than his nine-month spell on the sidelines. And whereas there was the occasional comprehensible dip, few can doubt Van Dijk is now approaching earlier ranges. That he has made 47 appearances this season underlines each his sturdiness and significance to Liverpool’s ongoing quest for an unprecedented quadruple.

There was a pleasant symmetry with occasions again in England on Tuesday night. Nat Phillips, on mortgage at Bournemouth since January, was serving to the Cherries safe promotion again to the Premier League, an achievement Klopp made some extent of acknowledging on the finish of his post-match press convention in Spain.

Had it not been for the emergence of centre-back Phillips final season in serving to fill the Van Dijk-shaped gap in Liverpool’s defence, there was each probability the Dutchman would not have even had the prospect to characteristic within the competitors this time period, not to mention be getting ready for a 3rd last in 5 seasons.

Van Dijk can be the primary to acknowledge that truth. He, like Liverpool, stays intent on profiting from each alternative that comes his method.

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