Liverpool’s thrilling 1-0 victory over West Ham United on Saturday not only kept them on the heels of title rivals Manchester City, but also saw Virgil van Dijk break a Premier League record that has stood since the 1990s .
Van Dijk, 30, led the Liverpool defense to help seal the result, and in doing so he took his unbeaten run at Anfield since his debut for the Reds to 60.
That’s right: the Dutch international is yet to lose a single Premier League home game (W52, D8) since his £75m move from Southampton ended in January 2018, surpassing a set record by former Manchester United winger Lee Sharpe a quarter of a century ago.
Sharpe managed to play 59 Premier League games (W47, D12) for United having made his competitive debut in November 1992 before suffering his first home defeat. That run lasted four full seasons before ending in the Red Devils’ first home game of the 1996-97 campaign, a 2-0 loss to Sheffield on Wednesday at Old Trafford. Sharpe actually made his first-team debut for United four years earlier in 1988 when he was still just 17 years old. So, as impressive as his Premier League home record is, it’s safe to say he held it on a technical note.
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Van Dijk has established himself as the general of Liverpool’s Anfield fortress in the Premier League, dominating not only the heart of the pitch but also the left side of the pitch in his 60 home league appearances.
He scored nine goals during those appearances. No prizes for guessing how the 6ft 4in centre-back scored most of them: all but one were headers, with the outlier against Southampton in November when the Saints failed to clear a corner and Van Dijk hammered a right-footed volley home while standing right on the penalty spot.
Six of the best
Here we take a look at van Dijk’s previous league appearances at home for Liverpool and select six of the classy centre-back’s best performances in front of his own fans.
Having also played in Liverpool’s 5-0 tie against Watford the previous season, van Dijk & Co. repeated the feat at Anfield in the 2018-19 campaign. Top of the table since mid-December, the Reds had been wary of dropping six points in their previous four games, giving rivals Manchester City a boost in the title race. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side ensured they ended the day a point above City with an effervescent display against the Hornets, securing their biggest win of the season. Van Dijk was nearly flawless at both ends of the pitch, winning all five of his aerial duels, completing 89.6% of his passes and scoring two headed goals.
2. Outnumbered: Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (31 March 2019)
This thrilling clash between the top four in the 2018-19 season saw Liverpool snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and move two points clear at the top of the table with six games remaining. As well as a 90th-minute own goal sealing three points for the Reds, the match at Anfield also featured one of the most memorable defensive power plays of van Dijk’s career.
Tottenham having canceled out Roberto Firmino’s opener with Lucas Moura’s 70th-minute tap-in, the visitors pushed hard in search of a winner and carved out a golden chance when Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min broke the counterattack with just one. defender to beat. Unfortunately for Spurs’ raging pair, that defender was van Dijk.
The Dutchman held his ground in between, subtly positioning himself to pressure Sissoko with the ball and cut the way for a square pass to Son, before choosing exactly the right moment to pressure Sissoko into shooting his weaker foot. safe above the bar.
Van Dijk’s ability to successfully nullify an attack while physically outnumbered became a quintessential example of his defensive acumen – and, what’s more, he also found himself on the winning side thanks to the unfortunate goal against his side Toby Alderweireld in stoppage time.
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Unfortunately for Liverpool, they eventually finished within a point of City after a tense title race, extending the Reds’ long wait to win another year’s first Premier League title. While that didn’t stop van Dijk from being named PFA Player of the Year for 2018-19, he narrowly put City forward Raheem Sterling in the spotlight and became the first defender to win the price since John Terry in 2004-05.
3. Champion Performance: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City (10 Nov 2019)
After the disappointment of missing out on the title the previous year despite 97 points, Liverpool have started the 2019-20 campaign, which means business. They had won all but one of their 12 league games (the other result being a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford) when they hosted City at Anfield. The defending champions were unsure what hit them as early goals from Fabinho and Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool a 2-0 lead within 15 minutes, but van Dijk more than played his part to seal the win.
The first of the defender’s seven ball recoveries came when he kept a cool head in his own area to collect the ball and start the pass of the game which eventually ended with Fabinho’s opening goal, while his block of Angelino’s shot attempt from close range as the half-hour approached helped keep his side’s 2-0 lead intact. Midway through the second half, van Dijk snatched the ball from Kevin De Bruyne to stop the midfielder with a clear shot from 12 yards, and overall his nine clearances from inside his own area contributed to a hugely important result in Liverpool’s bid to end their 30-year wait for a league title.
Knowing that even the most scrappy midweek wins would effectively seal a truly historic title win for the club, the pressure was on when Liverpool hosted Crystal Palace at Anfield at the end of the delayed 2019-20 season. due to the start. of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure enough, Klopp’s side dispatched the Eagles in brutal fashion to move within a metaphorical inch of getting their hands on the silverware that had eluded them for 30 long years.
Van Dijk was instrumental, leading from the back with 145 touches and eight ball recoveries. He also displayed a range of progressive passes, finishing the game with an overall completion rate of 92.9% which rose to 100% in Palace’s third of the pitch. In total, the Dutchman attempted 140 passes in 90 minutes against Palace – the second-highest tally of his league career at home with Liverpool, having attempted 141 against Sheffield United in January 2020 with a 95% success rate.
Victory at Anfield forced City to beat Chelsea the following night, but a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge gave the Reds their first top-flight title since 1989-90. To top it all off on an individual level, van Dijk also ended the season as the only Liverpool player to play every minute of every league game throughout their winning campaign.
5. To sweep up: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea (August 28, 2021)
The points were split between Liverpool and Chelsea in a frenetic encounter at the start of this season which saw the heavyweight pair finish the afternoon as joint league leaders. Kai Havertz had put the visitors ahead on 22 minutes with a looping header but Salah kept his composure and equalized from the penalty spot in the first half after Reece James was sent off by VAR for fending off the effort by Sadio Mane. his hand.
Liverpool then tackled Chelsea in the second half as the visitors couldn’t put a glove on their hosts in retaliation, thanks in large part to van Dijk forming a wall between them and Alisson’s goal.
The centre-back won 100% of his tackles, duels and aerial contests over the 90 minutes against the reigning European champions. He also had an astonishing 17 ball recovery, by far the most he had ever done in a league game for Liverpool, six more than in a 2-0 win over Manchester United in January 2019.
6. Premier League Century: Liverpool 3-0 Crystal Palace (September 18, 2021)
After missing all but five games of the 2020-21 season with a cruciate ligament injury, van Dijk has been forced to wait a bit longer than he would have liked to reminisce about his century of football. Premier League appearances for Liverpool.
The big day finally arrived at Anfield last September and, naturally, it ended with the Dutch defender on the winning side as the Reds galloped to a 3-0 win over Palace.
As well as winning 100% of his seven aerial duels again, van Dijk even managed to score his 100th Premier League game for Liverpool by delivering a rare assist, cornering Salah to bring home the second his team’s afternoon from the edge of the 6-yard box.