Liverpool were graced with a dream debut from their £75 million man as Virgil van Dijk secured a 2-1 FA Cup third-round win over Everton.
Liverpool 2-1 Everton
FA Cup Third Round, Anfield
January 5, 2018
Milner (pen) 35′ (assist – Lallana)
Sigurdsson 67′ (assist – Jagielka)
Van Dijk 84′ (assist – Oxlade-Chamberlain)
Rounding off a run of 14 games in 49 days, the Reds welcomed their city rivals to Anfield on Friday night looking to ensure they emerged from their congested winter unbeaten.
Having not suffered defeat since their 4-1 loss away to Tottenham at the end of October, Liverpool took on their Merseyside rivals in strong form, buoyed by Monday night’s 2-1 win at Burnley.
But with Sam Allardyce insisting before the game that “it’s win or bust” in the FA Cup, Jurgen Klopp will have needed to steel his side for a tough test.
The German made six changes to his starting lineup from the trip to Turf Moor on New Year’s Day, including a debut for £75 million signing Van Dijk.
With a break of eight days to come after Friday night’s derby, Liverpool were desperate to ensure momentum with a win, and the Dutchman was the one to make it count.
- Van Dijk debuts as Klopp makes six changes from New Year’s Day
- Milner nets opener from penalty spot with Lallana fouled
- Holgate avoids red card after clear, dangerous push on Firmino
- Sigurdsson levels scores as Everton break from Reds corner
- Van Dijk nets dream derby winner at the death
With both sides struggling to control possession in the early stages, the clash was quickly defined by a series of strong challenges, most notably two late ones from Wayne Rooney.
Andrew Robertson was more clinical off the ball, however, depriving both Yannick Bolasie and Jonjoe Kenny with some excellent, well-timed tackles.
Few genuine opportunities went the way of either side before the half-hour mark, with James Milner coming closest for the Reds with his back-post volley curling wide.
Everton‘s clumsy defensive approach gifted a Liverpool chance when Mason Holgate brought Adam Lallana down in the penalty, with Milner stepping up to put the hosts ahead from the spot.
Holgate was involved in a hugely controversial decision from Bobby Madley shortly after, with the 21-year-old pushing Roberto Firmino over the advertising hoardings.
But the referee overlooked both that and the ensuing fracas, bottling the decision with no sign of even a yellow card as the half played out to a tense finish.
The intensity of the clash remained the same after the break, with Allardyce forced to withdraw Rooney after just seven minutes as he walked the red-card tightrope.
An off-colour Lallana was sent through on the break after a bright interchange in midfield, but the No. 20, making his second of two starts this season in the space of five days, skewed it wide, weakly.
Van Dijk’s aerial presence was evident throughout, and not least when he rose highest to send a powerful header towards goal on the hour mark, but it wasn’t enough to beat Jordan Pickford.
Liverpool won another set-piece minutes later, but miserably it resulted in an equaliser from Everton, with Gylfi Sigurdsson finishing a breakneck counter after Phil Jagielka’s pull-back.
With the tie poised, Klopp made his last two rolls of the dice to introduce Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominic Solanke, replacing Milner and Joe Gomez in a switch of approach from the Reds.
It wasn’t one of Liverpool’s attacking signings who made the difference, however, but instead Van Dijk, who cannoned the ball into the back of the net for the winner on his debut.
Liverpool debut ?
Goal at the Kop End ?
Virgil van Dijk, it just had to be him. What a moment! ? #FACup pic.twitter.com/HnpOow2oex
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 5, 2018
TIA Man of the Match: Virgil van Dijk
Referee: Bobby Madley
Next Match: Man City (H) – Premier League – January 14