Virgil van Dijk enjoyed a dream debut for Liverpool by heading the winner in front of the Kop in the 230th Merseyside derby as they knocked Everton out of the FA Cup.
On a feisty night under the Anfield lights, the world’s most expensive defender proved he can be effective at both ends of the pitch by nodding in an 84th-minute corner to make it 2-1.
The Holland international becomes the first player to score a winner at Anfield in an FA Cup tie against Everton, at the fifth time of asking.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 67th-minute goal had earlier cancelled out James Milner’s first-half penalty in a blood-and-thunder contest which threatened to be tainted by a first-half flare-up between Mason Holgate, who conceded the spot-kick, and Roberto Firmino.
Here we look in-depth at the performance of Virgil van Dijk.
Goals – 1
Shots – 3 (2)
Tackles – 1
Touches – 79
Passes – 62
Pass Accuracy – 75.8%
Key passes – 0
Aerials Won – 5
Dispossessed – 0
The 26-year-old produced a towering display on his Liverpool debut and led the defence with his crisp passing, solid tackling and strong aerial ability.
The centre-back started the game well enough, initially being turned for pace by Yannick Bolasie after five minutes but the ball went out for a goal kick.
Apart from that error, he didn’t do too much wrong defensively but the fact that he won five aerial duels, had 79 touches and weighed in with the winning goal speaks volumes of his influence on the Reds defence.
His calmness on and off the ball rubbed off on his back four and will be a vital ingredient as the season progresses.
The Dutchman did attempt a few penetrating passes and was consistent with his advances, with his stunning header on 84 minutes proving the difference on a fairytale debut.
27th minute: Shows his strong aerial ability midway through the first half when diverting the danger from a curling Bolasie cross.
63rd minute: Liverpool come bounding down the right and win a free kick. The ball comes swinging into the penalty area and van Dijk rises unmarked to head straight at Jordan Pickford. A big opportunity missed by the Dutchman.
84th minute: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain swings a corner into the Everton box and van Dijk climbs highest to power a header past Pickford at the Kop end. What a magnificent goal on his debut.
Exactly what Liverpool need. Although he wasn’t tested defensively, van Dijk looks like the prized asset Jurgen Klopp’s side have been missing from their back four. Solid across the park, the Dutchman will be a commanding presence in the Reds quest to seal a Champions League berth.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
Costa, 29, grabbed Atletico’s third goal of the evening just five minutes after his introduction.
But in doing so he also sustained an injury to his right knee, seeming to jar his leg as he slid in to convert a low cross from the right.
Costa was treated on the pitch and was able to continue.
Atletico later stated on their website: “During Thursday’s training session, the medical staff will determine if it’s necessary for the striker to undergo medical exams.”
Despite the knee worry, Brazil-born Spain international Costa was enthusiastic about his return to the club he first joined in 2007.
Costa was farmed out to several clubs when he arrived at Atletico over a decade ago, before eventually pinning down a first-team place and landing a lucrative move to Chelsea in 2014.
Now he is set for a key role as second-placed Atletico push for a lofty finish in LaLiga.
He said: “I’m very happy to have played for Atletico Madrid again. This was very important for me and I’m very happy.
“I can’t ask for more in this second debut for Atletico. I got to play and I was lucky enough to score. This makes me even happier.”
The Soccerex football Finance 100, which ranks the world’s top teams based on both their playing and fixed assets, money in the bank, owner potential investment and debt, was published on Wednesday.
According to the study, Arsenal have £766 million worth of fixed assets – following their move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium – more than any other club in world football, while only Manchester United have more money in the bank (£307 million) than Arsenal’s £300 million.
The annual report by event organiser Soccerex suggests that Arsenal have the monetary muscle to “invest significantly” in the transfer market.
Manchester City, for so long under-achievers in English football, have seen their fortunes transformed since a 2008 takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group.
— Soccerex (@Soccerex) January 4, 2018
They have won two Premier League titles in the past decade and Pep Guardiola’s team look certain to win it again this year as they are already 15 points clear of nearest challengers Manchester United.
“Manchester City, one of the most famous cases of significant foreign investment changing a club’s status and potential, top the rankings,” the study says.
“Arsenal’s second place in the rankings, ahead of PSG (Paris Saint-Germain), will surprise many and is certainly a talking point in light of criticism the club receives from some quarters for its perceived lack of spending in the transfer market,” it adds.
“Their ranking is a reflection of the club’s professionalism and a sound business model. The position of financial strength means Arsenal could invest significantly should the hierarchy of the club choose to change their business strategy.”
Liverpool are 16th on the list, while 2016 Premier League champions Leicester are 20th. French giants PSG, who broke the transfer record to sign Neymar last summer, are third ahead of Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande. Real Madrid are sixth with their La Liga rivals Barcelona only 13th.