Virgil van Dijk paid tribute to Jan Oblak after the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper's heroics helped end Liverpool’s Champions League dreams.
Oblak was the star of the show as Diego Simeone’s side upset the European champions at the last-16 stage at Anfield on Wednesday night.
The Slovenia international made a string of saves to keep a rampant Reds side at bay, with Atletico then taking full advantage of a mistake at the other end by Adrian, the Liverpool ‘keeper, to complete a 4-2 aggregate triumph.
It was ultimately a frustrating night for Liverpool, who had led the tie after Roberto Firmino’s extra-time strike. Jurgen Klopp could barely conceal his disappointment afterwards, but Van Dijk was in a more phlegmatic mood.
"I think everything went right for 95 minutes, at least," he told reporters. "We were outstanding, I think. We dominated the game and had the intensity that they had to deal with.
"But they had an outstanding goalkeeper and he kept them alive. He pulled off some great saves. He saved them, plenty of times. Maybe three or four big, big saves that I can remember off the top of my head. We tried everything, that was the main thing."
Simeone had been similarly gushing about Oblak’s performance, comparing the 27-year-old to Lionel Messi in his post-match press conference – "Messi wins you games up front, but Oblak can save games," he said.
As for Liverpool, they can reflect on a disappointing end to a thrilling two-year journey in Europe. This was the first two-legged tie the Reds have lost under Jurgen Klopp, though they could hardly be faulted for their performance on Wednesday.
"We played very well," said Van Dijk. "I think no one can question that.
"You are obviously left with nothing at the end of the game, scored the first, second and in the end they scored at the end. That can happen when we are trying to go all out."
He added: "We expected exactly the way they played tonight. I think everyone expected that if you look at them, it is their right to approach the game the way they did.
"I think we did everything we could to win the game. As I say, we were outstanding for 95 minutes. We were intense, we dominated, won the ball, won a lot of second balls and put in a lot of work and heart in the challenges. The only thing is we are out of the Champions League."
There can be no time for negativity at Anfield. Not with a Merseyside derby at Everton to come on Monday night. Liverpool could even, if Manchester City were to lose at home to Burnley on Saturday, be crowned champions at Goodison Park, but victory nonetheless would move them to within one win of the league title.
Whether their supporters will be there to see it, though, is another matter. Reports this week suggest the Premier League are set to rule that games be played behind closed doors due to the worldwide spread of the coronavirus.
There is no confirmation yet that Monday’s game will be played under such conditions, but Saturday’s Under-18s derby at Kirkby will take place without spectators, and Goal understands both Liverpool and Everton are preparing for the news that the senior version will be affected too.
For Van Dijk, that would be huge shame.
"I think the main thing is football should be played with fans," said the Dutchman. "We play also for the fans, the fans pay to come and support us.
"But it is not their decision, it is not our decision, the decision is going to be made by the government and the Premier League and until that decision is made we just have to wait and see. If the decision is made, accept it."
He added: "Everybody has to be ready for another intense game and we will be, everyone wants to play those kind of games, I want to play those kind of games. So let’s go out there and enjoy it and don’t forget why we are 25 points clear at the top.
"We have to focus on ourselves. We need to get a good result at Goodison Park. That is going to be very tough. They are not in the best moment either so we will try everything to get a good result but we know how difficult it will be."