Man of the Match: Virgil van Dijk steals the show in enthralling Merseyside derby

Man of the Match Friends of Liverpool

There was only going to be one Man of the Match the minute Jurgen Klopp named his starting 11 for the highly-anticipated FA Cup match with Everton, where new signing Virgil van Dijk stole the headlines with the winning goal in a fine 2-1 victory for the Reds.

Klopp handed van Dijk his Liverpool debut in what was always going to be a feisty encounter against fierce rivals Everton, yet the Netherlands international was unfazed by the travelling fans, and rose to the occasion in a calm and assured display. He dealt with the threat of the tireless Dominic Calvert-Lewin on a huge evening for both van Dijk and indeed Liverpool who, after paying £75m for the towering centre-half, were guaranteed to be under scrutiny for such a lucrative deal. The new number four, however, didn’t disappoint, and capped off an impressive performance with the winning goal late on.

His tackles and interceptions were a constant theme all night as the away side aimed to cause an upset, while his countless headed clearances were vital as the home side looked to control the game after a first half Milner penalty. The giant central defender was assured in and out of possession, dominating the game at the back for the Reds with several key passes into the midfield and numerous important challenges.

Everton clawed a goal back, where van Dijk was faultless after a swift counter-attack from the away side. The new signing was, however, the difference as he popped up in the Everton area with just over five minutes remaining as he outjumped the opposition to head the ball into the empty net, where Jordan Pickford had foolishly leapt off his line in an attempted clearance.

It was quite simply a dream debut for Liverpool’s new man, and his match-winning efforts mean the Reds are now unbeaten in 16 matches against their fierce Merseyside rivals (winning eight and drawing eight), their longest ever unbeaten run against the boys from across the park. The win also means Liverpool have not lost a Merseyside derby in which they have scored the opening goal since 1992, while interestingly this was the 24th meeting between the two in the FA Cup, ensuring it is the most played fixture in the competition’s history.

Having already seemingly etched his name into Anfield folklore, van Dijk now has a huge task on his hands as he looks to guide the Reds to a top-four finish in the league, where his side now face high-flying Manchester City in next Sunday’s late kick off.