It was a fairytale debut for Liverpool’s new £75 million signing Virgil van Dijk as he scored the winning goal for Jurgen Klopp’s side in the Merseyside derby.
The former Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk popped up six minutes from time to power a header past Everton Jordan Pickford keeper in front of the Kop end.
Speaking to the official Liverpool website, van Dijk said: “I don’t think it can get any better. It was a fantastic night.
“It was unlucky that we conceded but to score the winner in a derby on my debut is something every little boy dreams of. I just did it.
“I’m very happy that we got through to the next round. We have a good chance to win this [cup]. I’m very happy to have my debut, to score and to win. It’s just fantastic.
“From what I’ve seen over the last couple of days — I’ve only been with the group for four or five days — it’s a special group with a lot of quality, a lot of presence and a lot of personality.
“Everyone has welcomed me very well. I just want to improve and work hard for the team, the club and the fans every day. There is still plenty of room for improvement. It’s just the start.
“I haven’t played a game for the last three weeks; I was very happy that I got the chance and I’m very happy that we went through to the next round. It was a tough game but we’re through.”
Manager Jurgen Klopp was delighted with Van Dijk’s debut and his winning goal, speaking post-match to the club website, he added: “A fairytale in a world with not a lot of fairytales anymore, so I think something like that is quite special.
“It was a difficult decision to make, to be honest, because, to be 100 per cent honest, the first plan was not to start him [van Dijk] tonight but then Dejan and Raggy played a lot of games in the last few weeks, so I changed my mind this morning. And it helped!
“They [had] little muscle issues, but could have played with a little higher risk than usual. I made the decision this morning that Virgil will start — and obviously it was a good idea in the end because the whole game was good.
“He showed a lot of things we want him to show in the future very often tonight; heading of course, football-wise his first touch was good, good under pressure and then around set-pieces a proper threat.”
“He was much better than I thought, to be honest, because it’s difficult, it’s always difficult. I said before the game that my expectations are easy to reach because I know how good he is and so I only want him to show that.
“I still know that he’s a human being and things can happen that he can show it tonight, things like this happen. But we all know that expectation can lead to pressure and then you look a little bit different than you look usually, and he obviously could stand the pressure tonight.
“He was for sure nervous but you could not see it and that’s the most important thing probably. He came quite well in the game and then from this point on I think how it is as a player you are then in kind of a tunnel, you don’t think about anything else than the game, so that helped a lot.
“We defended a lot of situations really well, leading to situations that were easy for him to handle because of course he is really good in the air. But then there came a few situations where it was a little bit tighter and he had a brilliant first touch, played football, not too complicated — which makes real sense always, but especially in your first game. So he played much better than I thought he would play tonight.”
Van Dijk was signed in a world record £75 million fee for a defender from Southampton on the 1st January, just under three years after he was signed by the St.Mary’s side.
Scottish champions Celtic sold him to the Saints for £11.5 million in September 2015 with the Parkhead side securing 10% of the fee that Liverpool paid Southampton this month, thanks to a sell-on clause.
The defender played 112 times for Celtic scoring 15 goals in his two years in Glasgow.