Virgil Van Dijk insisted Liverpool were just happy to be back after returning with a derby draw against Everton.
Liverpool were unable to pick up the momentum they had built up before the Premier League was paused for three months. The runaway leaders were held to a goalless draw by their rivals upon their return.
Despite the Reds closing in on a first league title in 30 years, it was Everton who went closest to winning. They had a huge double chance late on, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin seeing an effort saved by Alisson Becker, only for Tom Davies to hit the post with the rebound.
The result leaves Liverpool five points short of mathematically confirming the league title. It surely remains a case of when, not if, they will be crowned champions, though.
Van Dijk, who has once again been one of Liverpool’s most important players this season, insisted that it was one point gained.
“It’s pretty difficult to say at the moment,” he told Sky Sports after the game. “I think it was very intense.
“I think both sides created small opportunities. Obviously, they had maybe the biggest one on the post.
“Apart from that, I think at times we created some small opportunities. We had the ball quite a lot.
“And unfortunately we didn’t find the breakthrough, of course, which would have been the most important thing.
“I think everyone is just happy to be back. We didn’t lose, and it’s another step closer to our goal.”
It was not the only time Liverpool have been frustrated by a Carlo Ancelotti side in recent memory – something Van Dijk has come to expect.
“First of all, they are not bad defensively,” he said. “You have to give them credit for that.
“They kept it tight, they kept it compact and that’s what we expect from a team from Carlo Ancelotti as well.
“So it was tough. It was tough for them to find the breakthrough, for us as well, and I think it was a very intense game.”
Despite the tight nature of the match, Everton did come close to winning it late on with the double chance. However, Van Dijk said he could only stay calm and alert as it happened.
“You’re just trying to be ready for what’s coming next,” he explained. “I don’t think like, ‘Oh it’s going in’ or anything.
“I try to be there for when the ball’s not going in and luckily I was there to tap it for a corner.”
“Didn’t know what to expect”
The circumstances of Liverpool’s return to action were much different from what they left behind earlier in the season.
With no fans present, it was certainly not the usual Merseyside derby atmosphere. However, despite going into the unknown, Van Dijk was just pleased to be back on the pitch – adding that the performance sets them up well for their next match, against Crystal Palace in midweek.
“A lot better,” he said, when asked how it felt to be back. “Obviously everyone didn’t know really what to expect, the whole procedures before the game, how things will go.
“Obviously it was just good to be back out there. And I think it’s a fantastic game to be playing your first game after so long.
“Hopefully we can keep the good things for Wednesday and do well at home.”
There is still a chance that Liverpool could win the title on Wednesday – but it will depend on Manchester City’s result against Burnley on Monday night.
If not, the Reds will have to wait a little longer to end their agonising wait for the trophy. But Van Dijk is happy to take things one small step at a time.
“Yeah, we’re a step closer, obviously. We wanted to win, we wanted to get the three points today.
“But yeah, we’re another step closer and try improve every time and we’ll see how that will develop over the next couple of weeks.”
Asked if he will be watching the match between City and Burnley, the Dutch defender added: “I’m not sure, maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.
“I will see what I will be doing tomorrow night.”