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Assured Van Dijk proves worth again as Liverpool squeeze past Brighton

Assured Van Dijk proves worth again as Liverpool squeeze past Brighton
© Reuters
Liverpool moved seven points clear at the top of the table with victory.

Virgil Van Dijk made his 50th Liverpool appearance as Jurgen Klopp's men moved seven points clear at the top of the Premier League by beating Brighton 1-0.

Holland international Van Dijk was partnered in central defence by Brazil midfielder Fabinho due to the Reds' injury problems at the back, with Mohamed Salah's second-half penalty settling the contest in the Merseyside club's favour.

Here, Press Association Sport analyses the 27-year-old's performance at the Amex Stadium.

Leadership

With Dejan Lovren joining Joe Gomez on the treatment table and Joel Matip only fit enough for the bench following injury, Van Dijk was tasked with organising a four-man defence comprising makeshift centre-back Fabinho. He marshalled the back line well, once again providing Klopp's side with a solid foundation from which to manoeuvre the ball forward to the exciting attacking quartet of Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Distribution

Virgil Van Dijk looked to play out from the back (Gareth Fuller/PA).
Virgil Van Dijk looked to play out from the back (Gareth Fuller/PA).

Van Dijk enjoyed plenty of early touches as Liverpool controlled the game and attempted to play out from the back. He was neat and tidy in possession, keeping the ball moving as the Reds probed for openings. His long-range passing was slightly less successful. Ambitious, searching balls to Shaqiri and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the first half were over-hit.

Positioning

Brighton and Hove Albion v Liverpool – Premier League – AMEX Stadium
Liverpool midfielder Fabinho played as a makeshift defender alongside Van Dijk at the Amex Stadium (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Van Dijk lined up as Liverpool's left-sided centre-half. Brighton's lone striker Glenn Murray clearly sensed Fabinho was the visitors' weak link, playing close to the Brazilian and almost being rewarded with a free first-half header which was directed over. Albion's attack created little of concern overall and Van Dijk remaining relatively untested, even after Murray was replaced by the more lively Florin Andone.

Goal threat

Virgil Van Dijk has scored only two goals since joining Liverpool (Nick Potts/PA).
Virgil Van Dijk has scored only two goals since joining Liverpool (Nick Potts/PA).

The towering Dutchman, named Premier League player of the month for December, was Brighton's biggest concern at set-pieces. He was closely marked at corners and wanted a penalty from referee Kevin Friend after being manhandled by Lewis Dunk during the opening period. Despite his aerial presence, he has managed just two goals for the club and did not seriously look like adding to his tally on the south coast.

Overall

Virgil van Dijk
Virgil Van Dijk was named Premier League player of the month for December (Gareth Fuller/PA)

In the build-up to the match, Brighton boss Chris Hughton claimed Van Dijk's performances for Liverpool deserved comparison with the best centre-backs in Premier League history. He produced another assured display as Liverpool bounced back from defeat to title rivals Manchester City and their FA Cup exit at Wolves. The former Celtic and Southampton man will undoubtedly experience tougher afternoons than this one, with the Reds' stingy defence easing to a 13th top-flight clean sheet of the season.

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Jurgen Klopp has a point to make during the FA Cup third-round game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool on January 7, 2019
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City35292489226789
2Liverpool35277179205988
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs352311165353070
4Chelsea35207859382167
5Arsenal35206969462366
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd35197963501364
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves35149124443151
8Watford35148135050050
9Everton35147145044649
10Leicester CityLeicester35146154847148
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham35127164454-1043
12Crystal Palace35126174348-542
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle35118163544-941
14Bournemouth35125184962-1341
15Burnley35117174462-1840
16Southampton35910164158-1737
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton3597193254-2234
18Cardiff CityCardiff3594223065-3531
RFulham3565243376-4323
RHuddersfield TownHuddersfield3535272069-4914

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