While Virgil van Dijk was not completely rested for the Netherlands, Liverpool will have been happy to see their captain withdrawn early, before Cody Gakpo added the finishing touches to a thumping win.
After sealing their place for next summer’s European Championship last time out, reports suggested Van Dijk may have been rested against Gibraltar on Tuesday.
But upon the release of Ronald Koeman’s team sheet, Van Dijk’s name was in the starting lineup, and Gakpo was among the substitutes.
Thankfully, with Calvin Stengs, Mats Wieffer and Teun Koopmeiners all on the scoresheet in the first half, the Netherlands could go on without their defensive linchpin in the second 45.
His substitution at half-time came after 52 touches, 14 passes into the final third, four accurate long balls (100 percent) and two interceptions.
It may only be 45 minutes of rest, but Van Dijk is imperative to Liverpool and any opportunity to take him out of harm’s way is a bonus, especially with Man City on the horizon.
For fans, it would have been even better to see Koeman keep Van Dijk out of the match entirely but that was never an option for the skipper, even with Saturday’s game in mind.
“Yeah but come on, everyone wants to play for their country,” Van Dijk said post match, as relayed by X user @TheEuropeanLad, “I played every single qualifier and I wanted to play this one too.”
Cody Gakpo scores ??
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) November 21, 2023
Thankfully, there are no fitness concerns for Van Dijk, who got to watch on as his team piled on a further three unanswered goals, with Gakpo scoring the sixth and final strike against Gibraltar.
Gakpo was introduced for the final 13 minutes and scored just four minutes into his stint, though even he would acknowledge it was not a shot on goal, rather a fortuitous cross.
They all count, though, and Gakpo put the ball in the danger area and with no other touch, he scored his ninth goal for the Netherlands.