Van Dijk: Maybe Liverpool should be more like PSG
The Dutch defender was frustrated with Neymar and Co’s theatrics during Champions League defeat at Parc des Princes
Virgil van Dijk joined Jurgen Klopp in condemning Paris Saint-Germain’s theatrics during the sides’ Champions League clash – but then suggested the Reds should have taken a leaf out of Neymar and Co’s book.
It was a disappointing night for Liverpool in the French capital, their 2-1 loss leaving their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage hanging by a thread.
Last season’s finalists must beat Napoli either 1-0 or by two clear goals at Anfield in a fortnight’s time to guarantee progression, having slid to a fifth successive European defeat away from home.
The game was settled by first-half goals from Juan Bernat and Neymar, but afterwards much of the talk centred on the performance of referee Szymon Marciniak and the behaviour of Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Van Dijk was one of six Liverpool players booked on the night, with many of the Reds’ party angered by what they believed to be constant play-acting from the PSG players.
Klopp, speaking post-match, said that his team had been “made to look like butchers” by the referee, while Andy Robertson was another who spoke out. Jamie Carragher, the former Reds defender, described PSG’s antics as “embarrassing”.
As for Van Dijk, he was equally irked, though the Dutch defender hinted that Liverpool may have been wise to play the Ligue 1 champions at their own game.
He told reporters: “Obviously they’re world-class players but I don’t think it’s needed in the game at times.
“Sometimes they get hit and they will go down and sometimes I think it’s too easy and I’m getting so frustrated. It’s important to keep your head cool but every time we made a foul they all came to the ref trying to get us a yellow card.
“We should do the same at times today and I think in the second half we did it better. It’s not my type of game that I like. We still respect them how they are as players because they’re world-class players but it’s not really necessary at times.
“But other than that, they scored two goals, we lost and that’s it.”
Victory for PSG, of course, kept alive their own hopes of reaching the last 16. Tuchel’s team now need only a win against Red Star Belgrade on Matchday Six to secure their place, and the celebrations which greeted the final whistle on Wednesday told their own story. They did not go unnoticed by those from Liverpool, either.
“I think everyone in Europe respects us and I think we deserve that,” Van Dijk said. “But I think they are playing for the Champions League, that’s what their season is all about. They’re going to win the league, that’s something pretty obvious, so the only big thing for them is the Champions League.
“You see how much it meant after the game, how they celebrated.”
For Liverpool, the concern is that their struggles on the road in Europe go on. Once more, they were unable to impose their game and were punished for a slow start. A revival, prompted by James Milner’s penalty, failed to materialise in the second half.
“I hate losing, like everyone else,” added Van Dijk. “When you’re 2-0 down after 30 minutes, then you know it’s going to be tough. I think after the penalty that we scored we had more belief than ever and I think second half we did much better and unfortunately we didn’t get the equaliser.
“We don’t need to forget that we played Napoli, one of the best teams in Europe; PSG, one of the favourites to win the Champions League; and obviously the game in Belgrade was not good enough. We don’t need to [think] we are a s*** team, basically. It can happen.
“But the frustrating thing is how we conceded the goals and then it’s always difficult to come back. I don’t know if there’s any explanation for that right now because I can’t think of one – otherwise we should have used it already. But now we need to look forward and the only option for us to qualify is to win against Napoli, no matter what.”
Van Dijk added: “I’m very disappointed from tonight but we know that there’s only one chance left and we all want to take. We’re going to do everything that’s possible. We need everyone’s help, we need all the fans, we need everyone that comes to support us that night to make it a special evening for all of us.
“We know it’s going to be tough – Napoli is a fantastic team with great players, they have a great manager – but we need to keep believing in ourselves. We already do, I think, but at times today it wasn’t good enough and we need to be ready for that test.”