Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Van Dijk grabs derby winner on Liverpool debut

Published:Saturday | January 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (top left) heads the ball to score his side's second goal during the English FA Cup Third Round match between Liverpool and Everton at Anfield in Liverpool, England, yesterday. Liverpool won 2-1.

LIVERPOOL, England (AP):

It couldn't have gone any better for Virgil van Dijk on his Liverpool debut.

Signed last week for US$100 million as the world's most expensive defender, Van Dijk scored an 84th-minute winner against Everton Liverpool's fierce local rivals in front of the storied Kop stand at Anfield in the third round of the FA Cup yesterday.

"Playing at Anfield for Liverpool is a dream for every player," the Netherlands defender said after the 2-1 win in the 230th Merseyside derby. "To score a goal is even more special."

Manchester United also left it late to qualify for the fourth round, with in-form midfielder Jesse Lingard and striker Romelu Lukaku scoring in the final six minutes of regulation time in a 2-0 victory over second-tier Derby County at Old Trafford.

Kevin Keegan, Michael Owen, Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah are among those to have scored on their Liverpool debuts.

Add Virgil van Dijk to the list.

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said the centre back wasn't "fine-tuned" following his big-money move from Southampton, and he wasn't even going to start him until the morning of the match, when he changed his mind.

Van Dijk looked a bit rusty with the ball at his feet but was commanding in the air throughout, no more so than when he leapt in front of Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford at a corner to head the ball into an empty net.

"I think something like that is quite special," Klopp said.

James Milner put Liverpool ahead in the 35th minute by converting a penalty, contentiously awarded after Adam Lallana fell to the ground after Mason Holgate placed his hands on the chest of the Liverpool midfielder.

Everton barely threatened in the first half but was much more dangerous after the break, equalising through Gylfi Sigurdsson after a counterattack following a Liverpool corner.

The most explosive incident in a typically high-octane derby came just after Milner's goal when Holgate shoved Roberto Firmino into and over the advertising boards. A clearly unhappy Firmino vaulted back onto the field and sprinted toward Holgate, swearing in Portuguese, and was lucky that referee Bobby Madley stepped in between them to intervene.

Holgate then became aggrieved, and appeared to complain to Madley that he had been verbally abused by Firmino. Madley spoke to his the fourth official, before play continued.

Liverpool haven't lost to Everton in 16 matches a club record and Everton's winless run at the home of their great rival extended to 21 games, dating back to 1999.