Harry Kewell: “No Virgil van Dijk, no defensive vision”
They left it late again. But Liverpool is into the final of the Fifa Club World Cup after beating the Mexican side Monterrey on Wednesday.
Liverpool began with Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Trent Alexander on the bench. Virgil van Dijk did not feature because of an illness. Midfielder Jordan Henderson deputized at the center-back.
With Liverpool’s starting line-up being unfamiliar, the eventual outcome was different.
The Reds have made a habit of scoring late goals to settle closely-fought matches this season. This time, Firmino was their hero with a 91st-minute winner.
With a win against Monterrey, Liverpool will face the Brazilian side, Flamengo on Saturday’s final.
Why Harry Kewell is confident the Reds will win this time as long as van Dijk is fit.
Van Dijk has missed three of Liverpool’s 28 games in all competitions this season. Without him, Liverpool looked a lot less assured in the three matches the defender missed.
“When I watch Liverpool play, I see Virgil constantly talking to everyone around him. He is always communicating with his full-backs and the people in front of him.” Said Kewell.
“Yes, people talk about him being a great defender because he can play out from the back and is comfortable on the ball. But a defender’s first job is to defend. I the case of Van Dijk, it is to organize the rest of his defense too.”
“That is what Liverpool missed the most against Monterrey. No one had his kind of defensive vision or ability to spot danger.”
“Despite their lack of composure at the back, they defended pretty well for the most part. But one thing I would criticize was the goal they conceded.”
“No one saw Stefan Medina’s run to the far post. Once he had the leap on Naby Keita, there was no way Keita could defend it. After that, they did not defend as a unit when the ball was in the box.”
“I don’t see that happening if Van Dijk is on the pitch.”
“They need him back in the team to face Flamengo. If he is fit, Liverpool will be calm and comfortable at the back and everyone will be a lot more relaxed.”