Virgil van Dijk has aired his relief at being let off the hook by Riyad Mahrez’s penalty miss during Liverpool’s crunch clash with Manchester City, with the Dutchman admitting that his late lunge on Leroy Sane was “not smart”.
With just five minutes left on the clock at Anfield on Sunday, a man widely considered to have turned Jurgen Klopp’s side into realistic title contenders suffered an uncharacteristic rush of blood.
Having felled City winger Sane inside the box, Van Dijk presented Mahrez with an opportunity to snatch a potentially priceless winner from the spot.
The Algerian fluffed his lines as he blazed a woeful effort high into the stands, with Liverpool able to see the game out from there and take a point from a battling 0-0 draw.
Van Dijk said afterwards, having avoided becoming the villain in a crucial contest: “I think to keep a clean sheet after a penalty in the last five minutes makes me a very happy man. It was not smart from me personally and hopefully it will never happen again.
“Eighty-five minutes, you obviously get a bit fatigued, and that moment goes by in a split second and I decided to dive in, which is not what I would normally do. It was a decision I made and hopefully it will be the last time I make that decision at that time.
“At the end we need to be happy – I need to be happy – that we didn't lose it because of the penalty. They came as the champions and it was lucky they didn't score but also unlucky we didn't score either.”
City appeared happy to settle for a share of the spoils at a venue they have historically struggled to take much from during the Premier League era.
Klopp boasts an impressive record in clashes with Pep Guardiola, and the Catalan coach was happy to favour a cautious approach and head back to the Etihad Stadium with something.
Van Dijk said of the Blues’ tactics: “Obviously they were a bit cautious of the way we played and I think we have earned that respect but they still pressed and still tried to play their game.
“We made it difficult for them and they made it difficult for us at times but that's how it is.”
Stalemate on Merseyside means that Liverpool and City remain locked on 20 points at the top of the table, with Chelsea having joined them on that mark.
Van Dijk hopes the Reds can sustain a challenge for the top-flight crown, with there still 30 testing games to come in the battle for Premier League supremacy.
The Netherlands international said: “I think it is not about these games, it is all about the other games, the difficult games which we have against mid-table and lower teams.
“We want to get as close as possible and do as well as we can but we know it is going to be hard. We've had a great start to the season and we want to keep it going.”