Virgil van Dijk believes his tackle on Dries Mertens during Tuesday night’s Champions League match between Napoli and Liverpool was not a bad challenge.
The centre-back made what appeared to be a superb sliding tackle on Mertens less than 15 minutes into the game, but replays showed he caught the Napoli player on the ankle on his follow-through.
Van Dijk was subsequently shown a yellow card by referee Damir Skomina, though Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti claimed it should have been red.
However, Liverpool’s No.4, who will now miss the Reds’ first knockout match through suspension, insists that the wet pitch was to blame for the follow-through in his tackle.
“I don’t think it was a bad challenge at all,” said Van Dijk, according to Independent.ie.
“Unfortunately, I touched him, but I would never go in to hurt him or anything like that. I had the ball and obviously the wet pitch you slide through and I touched him but that’s football.
“Unfortunately, I’m suspended now for the first game [of the knockout stages]. I heard it after the game so I was a bit disappointed about that, but we have plenty of quality players to fill my gap.”
Van Dijk admitted that Liverpool made things harder on themselves by missing a hatful of chances to extend their lead, but praised goalkeeper Alisson Becker for his last-minute save to deny Napoli an equaliser that would have dumped the Reds out of the tournament.
“In the end, they need one goal so it can fall in a crazy scrimmage or anything and they had their chance,” said Van Dijk.
“(Alisson) was there to do his job! The save was unbelievable, you saw my reaction as well, it’s very important to have such a guy behind.
“We could have made it a lot easier, we could have scored another two/three, we didn’t, and then it was (important) for us to win our battles and keep it tight and we did.
“Alisson is also part of the defence and I think we all deserve the credit that we get from you guys, from the media and stuff. It starts up front.
“You see today, obviously we have triggers to press and then make it difficult for them. If they come to our end then we need to be ready and we were.”