Van Dijk shrugs off Liverpool criticisms: We can't always play the perfect game

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The Reds leaked three goals in the 4-3 victory over Salzburg but their influential centre-back sees no reason to panic

Virgil van Dijk laughed off Liverpool’s Champions League scare against Salzburg insisting "we can’t always play the perfect game".

The Reds were given an almighty fright against the Austrian champions at Anfield on Wednesday night, tossing away a three-goal lead before Mohamed Salah’s strike secured a narrow 4-3 victory in their Group E clash.

With Napoli drawing at Genk in the other group game, Liverpool have assumed a solid position and look strong favourites to progress to the knockout stages. 

Jurgen Klopp’s side will, however, need to defend better than they did against Salzburg, who exposed alarming frailties during a 20-minute spell either side of half-time.

Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, in particular, were left exposed with Liverpool’s midfield offering little or no protection in that period, although the Dutchman was able to smile about the night’s events afterwards.

“We did it for the fans!” laughed Van Dijk.

“No, we could have done better. It was a game of two halves, maybe? First half we played so well, we were so comfortable at 3-0 but then we conceded a goal and they started believing. We knew before the game that they would never give up anyway, and they kept going, they had a lot of pace and pressing – a bit like how we play. 

“But we should have done better, especially the first 20 minutes of the second half, all of us. That’s why we conceded the goals. 

“But it’s maybe a good thing. We know we still have to improve, but we will.”

Van Dijk railed at the suggestion Liverpool had been “all over the place” at times, and said there will be no panic among the players despite an unusually weak defensive performance.

“I don’t think all over the place is the right choice of words!” he said. “But when we played football, we tried to break through them and if the last pass got intercepted, then they were very direct.

“When we have the ball, we are a little open. I think the problem was when we lost the ball, there was a lot of space for them to counter, and with the pace they have and the runners they have, that can be dangerous.

“Of course everyone wants to panic and stress and maybe look for all the negatives, but we shouldn’t! 

“I’m not even looking at the negatives. We know we can do better, but we are human beings and we can’t always play the perfect game. We have to grind it out. We have the three points and that’s the most important thing.

“It’s good that we have played against them, we know what we can expect when we go over there. It will be tough there. We can analyse this, and we know we can do better.”

Liverpool are next in action on Saturday when they welcome in-form Leicester to Anfield in the Premier League. It promises to be another test for the league leaders, who have won three of their last four games by a single-goal margin.

Does that, Van Dijk was asked, indicate that teams are raising their game against the European champions?

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“Well so far we are doing pretty well this season!” he responded. “We shouldn’t forget that after one night where we were a bit disorganised. 

“There’s no reason for panic at all, we just need to relax, have a look at what can be better. There is plenty. We will analyse it, and we have another tough game against Leicester on Saturday. 

“But we have to be confident and keep doing what we do.”

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