Van Dijk injury causes concern for frustrated Liverpool
Virgil van Dijk has been a commanding — even transcendent — presence at the heart of Liverpool's defence throughout the team's rise to the top of English and European football in recent years.
In a major concern for the Premier League champions, they might have to learn how to cope without their warrior at the back for quite some time.
Early in what proved to be a painful Merseyside derby for Liverpool, Van Dijk was the subject of a reckless lunge by Jordan Pickford that saw the Everton goalkeeper clatter into the extended right leg of the Netherlands defender.
Van Dijk roared in agony and, tellingly, stayed down. And that was when Jürgen Klopp knew it was serious.
"Virgil played I don't know how many games in a row, he plays with pain, but he couldn't play on and that's not good," Klopp said after the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.
Indeed, Van Dijk — English football's player of the year from 2018-19, who had played every minute of Liverpool's previous 74 league games, dating back to September 2018 — immediately came off after lengthy treatment and hobbled gingerly around the field to the locker room.
There was no official word from Liverpool on the potential length of his absence, but Van Dijk reportedly left hospital on crutches in the evening. Broadcaster beIN Sports said it has received information that the player has damaged his anterior cruciate ligament.
With the draw, Liverpool extended their 10-year unbeaten record against their neighbours but Klopp was a frustrated man as he made the short trip home from Goodison.
Aside from the fact Pickford escaped punishment for the challenge on Van Dijk — the VAR seemingly didn't review the incident, which came after an offside was called — Klopp was unhappy his team had what would have been a winning goal from Jordan Henderson disallowed in the second minute of stoppage time. The VAR did intervene this time, spotting Sadio Mane was offside by the narrowest of margins.
Mane had given Liverpool a third-minute lead, only for Michael Keane to equalise with a towering header at a corner. Mohamed Salah reclaimed the lead for the champions with his sixth goal of the campaign, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin grabbed Everton's second equaliser by rising high to power home a left-wing cross for his 10th goal in seven club matches in all competitions.
Van Dijk might have been marking Keane and Calvert-Lewin for both of those Everton chances. It is potentially a sign of things to come for Liverpool.
Everton dropped points for the first time this season in their fifth match, but stayed top, three points above Liverpool.