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‘That wasn’t a tackle on Van Dijk, it was an assault!’ – Liverpool legend Souness slams Pickford

08:00 BST 19/10/2020
Jordan Pickford Virgil Van Dijk 2020
The former Reds midfielder believes the defending Premier League champions will find it difficult to counter the loss of a key man through injury

Liverpool legend Graeme Souness has slammed Jordan Pickford’s “assault” on Virgil van Dijk, with Jurgen Klopp losing the one player to injury that he cannot afford to be without.

An eventful Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on Saturday delivered a number of headline-grabbing incidents, with VAR sparking controversy once again.

Technology ruled out what would have been a late winner for Jordan Henderson against the Toffees, while it also let Pickford off the hook following a knee-high challenge on Reds defender Van Dijk.

The reigning Premier League champions are set to be without Van Dijk for several months on the back of that incident, with knee ligament damage being confirmed.

Souness is stunned that Pickford could get away with a reckless tackle that has rocked Anfield, with the England international escaping any kind of punishment.

“It amazes me,” Reds legend Souness told Sky Sports. “I guarantee you, every single professional who has ever played the game, semi-professional, maybe the guys on Hackney Marshes, when you look at that, the focus is not on the offside, their focus is on one thing: the assault on the player.

“It's outrageous. For me, as an ex-player, it's 'wow!'. These people who make these decisions, who sit in Stockley Park, can look at that and think, 'that's offside', I just don't get it. They just don't know what they're talking about.

“I've been to Stockley Park, it's nigh-on impossible to make a mistake with the technology they have, the time they give themselves, and they can still get it wrong. That wasn't a tackle, that was an assault!”

While Everton will be able to call upon Pickford in their upcoming fixtures, it remains to be seen how long Van Dijk will be stuck on the sidelines and how hard his absence will hit Liverpool. Souness fears the Reds will struggle to counter the loss of an on-field leader.

The Scot said: “If you were to ask me at the start of the season, who's the one player you don't want to miss a large chunk of the season, people might say Sadio Mane, people might say Mohamed Salah, for me it's Van Dijk.

"Liverpool still have enough goals in the team to do it without one of those two, but at the back he's the catalyst for everything they do. From getting up the field to holding the line when it's the correct time to hold it, dropping off when it's the right time to drop off. It's a major blow. It's the last thing Liverpool needed.”