Virgil van Dijk praises defensive colleagues for stepping up in his absence

Virgil van Dijk has heaped praise on Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Jarell Quansah for the 'major role' they played in Liverpool's dramatic comeback win over Newcastle United last weekend.

The newly-appointed Liverpool skipper didn't enjoy the best showing during last week's visit to St James' Park, seeing red early into the game.

A goal down and now a man down with an hour still to play, Van Dijk's dismissal put all the odds in Newcastle's favour. Even at 1-0, the game looked pretty irretrievable for the Reds.

However, thanks to assured performances by Matip and Gomez, as well as a late but effective cameo from youngster Quansah, Liverpool managed to keep a clean sheet for the rest of the game - allowing Darwin Nunez to grab the headlines with a fantastic late brace to steal a famous victory.

And while Nunez has been the talk of the town ever since, Van Dijk has been sure to commend his defensive colleagues for how they coped and adapted during times of adversity.

“It goes without saying that I am disappointed not to be involved [against Villa]," Van Dijk wrote in his programme notes ahead of this weekend's matchup. "But the important thing for us as a group is always that if any of us is unavailable for whatever reason, someone else steps up and fills the void.

“This is something that definitely happened at Newcastle so hopefully it will happen again [on Sunday]. Whether it was Joel, Joey or Jarell at centre-back, they all gave everything for the team and played a major role in the result we achieved.

“Darwin got the headlines and rightly so because the goals he scored were not only brilliantly taken, they also decided the match, but it is also important to highlight that we kept a clean sheet with 10 men.

“This does not happen without the team defending as a team and without Ali being the world-class goalkeeper that we know he is, but as a centre-back my attention is naturally drawn to the performances of the players who play in the same position."

On the performances of his centre-back counterpart, he added: “The achievements and contribution of Joey and Joel over the years speak for themselves, so it did not surprise me in any way to see them performing in the way that they did.

"But Jarell was playing his first game at this level and he played with a maturity that made it look like he already had 50 appearances to his name.

“This is what I mean about trusting the players we have. If we do that – as the manager did with Jarell at such an important moment in an incredibly tough match – they will have the best possible chance of showing what they can do.”

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