Van Dijk aims dig at Liverpool ex-pro critics after Matip puts Reds back on course

·3-min read

Virgil van Dijk took a swipe at Liverpool's critics after a vital Champions League win over Ajax lifted spirits at Anfield.

Captaining Jurgen Klopp's team on Tuesday, Van Dijk saw his fellow centre-back Joel Matip head home from a corner in the 89th minute to earn three priceless points for last season's runners-up.

Mohamed Salah had earlier broken his seven-game barren streak in the competition by firing Liverpool ahead, before a fine goal from Mohammed Kudus brought Ajax level.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric as Matip's goal was awarded, after Dusan Tadic's attempted clearance came from behind the line.

It meant Liverpool cast aside the misery of last week's 4-1 defeat to Napoli, and Dutchman Van Dijk said it should serve to remind players-turned-pundits of the team's great strengths.

Van Dijk told BT Sport: "Coming back from the horror show in Naples, it was very important for us to show a positive reaction, and it's not easy to turn it around, but this is a step to the right direction.

"It was very important to win today and get the good feeling going into the international break."

Asked about the key to turning around the team's fortunes, Van Dijk said: "Not listening to the outside world, that's the most important thing.

"It's funny sometimes, because there's a lot of ex-football players and they know exactly what we go through. They say a lot of things to try to get us down.

"We know that last week was unacceptable, it was very bad, and we tried to make it right. This is a step to the right direction. Don't get carried away of course, because we play so many games."

Van Dijk had a team-high four goal attempts and said: "I should have scored. We felt like we were dangerous at every set-piece, especially the corners, so it was our responsibility to at least convert one, and luckily the one and only Joel Matip did it."

Liverpool 2-1 Ajax
Liverpool 2-1 Ajax

Matip now has 10 goals across all competitions for Liverpool, and the team have nine wins and a draw from the 10 games in which he has found the net.

"I had a few opportunities before and I was happy that I could score," said former Schalke defender Matip. "I wasn't sure [it would be awarded], to be honest, but when I saw the referee then my emotions came out.

"It was a long and tough game, we tried over 90 minutes to create chances and were pushing forward, the whole team."

Manager Jurgen Klopp enjoyed the moment, with Liverpool playing between blank weekends, their latest Premier League games having been called off amid national mourning over the death of Queen Elizabeth II and a subsequent squeeze on police resources.

"I think everyone could see we understood we had to put a completely different shift into the game," Klopp said.

"We played a lot of good stuff against a really hard-fighting and good opponent. We should have scored more goals from set-pieces especially, I don't know how these balls didn't go in."

He was more than happy for it to be Matip, rather than a striker, coming up with the late heroics.

"I'm not picky in that sense," Klopp said. "It was a nice celebration and showed everything the boys thought today. Nothing is over, negative or positive, it is a first step and a very important step for us."