Premier League • England

Spiky Van Dijk fires back at ‘ex-footballers’ after declaring the one thing Liverpool shouldn’t do

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk railed against the criticism he and Liverpool have recently received, and suggested the Ajax victory could spark a course change in their season.

The Reds hosted Ajax with the memory of their 4-1 humbling in Naples still fresh. Premier League postponements have denied Liverpool the chance to put that wrong right, meaning all eyes were on how they’d respond at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Liverpool dominated large swathes of the match, limiting Ajax to a single shot on target.

Mohammed Kudus took that shot and duly rifled in off the crossbar to cancel out Mohamed Salah’s 17th minute opener.

But while the Reds looked livelier throughout and tried their luck with over 20 shots, the winner seemed like it would not come as the match wore on.

However, set pieces proved a fruitful avenue all night and in the 89th minute, Joel Matip thundered home the winner.

Anfield held its breath after the ball was cleared seemingly off the line, though the referee pointed to his watch to signal goal-line technology had deemed the ball did in fact cross the line.

Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Matip said: “I had a few opportunities before and I was happy that I could score then.

“I wasn’t sure to be honest, but when I saw the referee the emotions came out.”

When made aware his last Champions League goal came nine years ago at Schalke, a visibly surprised Matip replied: “That’s a long time ago, oh my god.”

Napoli defeat a “horror show”

Matip was interviewed in conjunction with Virgil van Dijk who used the public forum to address a few nagging issues, including admitting the Napoli display was a “horror show”.

“We tried,” said the Dutchman. “They scored with their first real chance I think, but coming back from the horror show in Naples it was very important for us to show a positive reaction.

“It’s not easy to turn it around, but this is a step in the right direction in my opinion.

“We had great moments during the game and it was very important to win today to get that great feeling going into the international break.”

On his own chances to score from a series of corners he got his head to first, Van Dijk added: “I should’ve scored.

“We felt like we were dangerous at every set piece, especially corners. It was our [his and Matip’s] responsibility to convert at least one and luckily the one and only Joel Matip did it.”

Van Dijk rails against criticism

When interviewer Des Kelly stressed the Reds dressing room contains a lot of trophy winners and they know what must be done, Van Dijk said: “Not listening to the outside world, that’s the most important thing.

“It’s funny sometimes because there are a lot of ex-football players who know exactly what we go through, but they say a lot of things to try and get us down.

“We know last week was unacceptable, it was very, very bad. But we tried to make it right and this is a step in the right direction.

“We won’t get carried away of course because we play so many games. Now it’s time to focus on our international teams and then we crack on for the rest of the season.”