Wednesday 23 October 2019

Van Dijk: I would never go in to hurt rival

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA
Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk. Photo: PA

Mark Critchley

Virgil van Dijk has claimed his tackle on Dries Mertens was not a bad challenge and blamed a wet Anfield pitch for his costly yellow card.

Liverpool secured the 1-0 win required to progress at Napoli's expense on Tuesday night, but Van Dijk will miss the first leg of their last-16 tie through suspension. The Holland international made a last-ditch sliding tackle on Mertens in the 13th minute and appeared to win the ball, though bent Mertens' ankle on the follow through.

Referee Damir Skomina booked Van Dijk but television replays suggested other referees may have sent the 27-year-old off.

Van Dijk believed he had executed the tackle well. "I don't think it was a bad challenge at all," he said.

"Unfortunately, I touched him, but I would never go in to hurt him or anything like that. I had the ball and obviously the wet pitch you slide through and I touched him but that's football.

Suspended "Unfortunately, I'm suspended now for the first game [of the knockout stages]. I heard it after the game so I was a bit disappointed about that, but we have plenty of quality players to fill my gap."

Liverpool spurned chances to beat Napoli handsomely, with Van Dijk among the culprits, and Jurgen Klopp's side had to rely on a late reaction save from Alisson to ensure progression.

"[Alisson] was there to do his job! The save was unbelievable, you saw my reaction as well, it's very important to have such a guy behind," Van Dijk said. "We could have made it a lot easier."

Irish Independent

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