Virgil van Dijk was a force for Liverpool vs Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon. The Reds ran out 1-0 winners at Anfield.
Aston Villa certainly made Liverpool work for their win. Steven Gerrard’s side did excellently to shut down the space around their own box, limiting clear chances.
Liverpool needed to keep the pressure on for the full 90 minutes just to stop Villa’s gameplan from happening. They did that through a dominant defensive display from the centre-backs. Every time the visitors tried to get up the pitch, the hosts sent them back.
We picked out Joel Matip after the game – the Cameroonian was near-perfect with his performance. But that isn’t to say Virgil van Dijk was also fantastic here.
Virgil van Dijk shines for Liverpool vs Aston Villa
Van Dijk did make a very rare mistake early on. He struggled to deal with Ollie Watkins near the box, eventually fouling him before the Villa striker got around him. It earned the Dutchman a booking.
But that was really the last worry. From then on, Van Dijk was at his dominant best and Villa struggled badly to get the better of him.
Just look at his heading, for one. Van Dijk won five headers at a 100% success rate. Villa tried to get up the pitch with Watkins’ aerial threat but he just couldn’t make it work.
Van Dijk also won two tackles out of two attempts and made a magnificent seven clearances. Right place, right time and didn’t put a foot wrong after that 13th-minute mistake.
It’s exactly what Liverpool needed today. Villa didn’t allow them to get a safe lead – unlike many teams this season – and the Reds controlled the game by nullifying any attempt from Gerrard’s side to get up the pitch.
Van Dijk being at his dominant best made that happen. He earned this win as much as anyone.