Van Dijk says City’s cautious tactics showed respect for Liverpool
Defender mightily relieved to see Mahrez miss the late penalty at Anfield
Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk brings down Manchester City’s Leroy Sane inside the box, resulting in a penalty at Anfield. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Virgil van Dijk has said Manchester City’s caution at Anfield was a sign of respect for Liverpool as he promised to learn from the foul that almost cost Jurgen Klopp’s team their unbeaten Premier League record.
The Liverpool defender admitted it was “not smart” to dive in on Leroy Sane during Sunday’s stalemate and was hugely relieved when Riyad Mahrez blazed the resulting 86th minute penalty over the bar.
Van Dijk claimed fatigue was a factor in his challenge and he needed to learn from the late reprieve.
“To keep a clean sheet after a penalty in the last five minutes makes me a very happy man,” said the €85m centre-half.
“It was not smart from me personally and hopefully it will never happen again. Eighty-five minutes, you obviously get a bit fatigued and that moment goes by in a split second and I decided to dive in, which is not what I would normally do. It was a decision I made and hopefully it will be the last time I make that decision at that time.”
Pep Guardiola admitted his game-plan was to control possession and avoid losing the ball in areas where Liverpool could counterattack through Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. While City succeeded, van Dijk believes the champions’ tactics demonstrated their concern for the threat posed by Liverpool.
He said: “Obviously they were a bit cautious of the way we played and I think we have earned that respect but they still pressed and still tried to play their game. We made it difficult for them and they made it difficult for us at times. We tried to win but at the end we need to be happy – I need to be happy – that we didn’t lose it because of the penalty. They came as they champions and it was lucky they didn’t score but also unlucky we didn’t score either.”
As for the impact of Sunday’s draw on the title race, the Netherlands’ captain added: “I think it is not about these games, it is all about the other games, the difficult games we have against mid-table and lower teams. We want to get as close as possible and do as well as we can but we know it is going to be hard. We’ve had a great start to the season and we want to keep it going.”