NEWCASTLE: Virgil van Dijk took his leadership to a new level on Saturday with an off-the-cuff tactical switch that effectively earned Liverpool their dramatic 3-2 win over Newcastle.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool’s trusted dead-ball man, was all set to take an 86th minute free-kick on the right flank of the pitch after Fabinho had been fouled, only for van Dijk to change the script.
The PFA Player of the Year was seen gesticulating frantically towards Alexander-Arnold and Xherdan Shaqiri, opting for the Switzerland international’s inswinging left-footed delivering over Alexander-Arnold’s right-footed outswinger.
Shaqiri duly obliged, picking out Divock Origi to head the ball home for a crucial three points for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
The victory returned them to the top of the league until Monday at least, when title rivals Manchester City face Leicester.
Should Guardiola’s side drop points against the Foxes or Brighton on the last day of the season, van Dijk’s intervention would prove vital.
Gary Neville heralded van Dijk’s leadership in his post-match analysis, saying: “It’s a big risk for him to do that.
“I actually think that’s something that defines him as a person, not just a player.”
“Trent will take them from that side and they just follow instructions. You don’t often see leaders on a pitch alter things. For him to say ‘No, you’re not taking it — you’re taking it’ is a risk.”
Fellow TV analyst Graeme Souness added: “That looks like van Dijk has got them the goal. Players taking responsibility, he’s made it happen.” --Daily Mail