Virgil van Dijk believes Darwin Nunez is starting to fulfil his exciting potential at Liverpool.
The Uruguay international played a pivotal role in Thursday’s 3-1 win over LASK in the Europa League.
Nunez scored the equaliser from the penalty spot and was involved in the team move for Luis Diaz’s goal. His pressing then won the ball back to create the third for Mohamed Salah late on.
“Everyone has now seen the potential and the quality he has,” said Van Dijk.
“Darwin was very important for us against LASK and long may it continue. Up front, the competition is quite good. They all have to push each other and it’s good to see. Everyone has a role to play whether you start or not.”
Van Dijk grabbed the ball and initially made it look like he was going to take the spot-kick as part of a ploy so Nunez could compose himself before firing home his third goal of the season.
“You have to make sure you protect at least the penalty spot,” the Dutchman explained. “It’s a bit of a mind game there – maybe they were going to try and get in your head. It was always the plan that Darwin was going to take it, and I’m glad he scored.”
The Liverpool captain, who returned to action after serving a two-game domestic ban, was delighted by his side’s display. For the fourth time in five matches, Jurgen Klopp’s team conceded first but hit back to win with a dominant second-half display.
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“We started slowly but it was always going to be a bit difficult because of the changes we made. We had a lot of players who hadn’t played for a long time,” he said.
“We had never played with that set-up. Obviously when you are 1-0 down at half-time with the set-piece, it doesn’t really feel that nice.
“It was about showing a reaction after the break, staying calm and cool, and finding a way. In the second half we were good.
“It’s a fantastic group to be part of. We have a lot of quality, a lot of younger players, players who are getting new roles and they are enjoying that as well. Everybody wants to play their best football every game, but sometimes you have to find a way, like we did at Wolves.
“We have the quality to make a difference. Whether you start or are on the bench, you always have to have that belief and it looks like we definitely do.”
Alisson, Andy Robertson, Curtis Jones, Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo were all rested ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash with West Ham United at Anfield.
The strength of Klopp’s bench influenced the contest against LASK, with Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Salah brought on in the second half.
“At that time LASK were getting a bit tired so to bring those players on was a big plus,” added Van Dijk.
“I must say well done to all the boys who started, though. It was a big night for Ben Doak. It was never going to be easy on a difficult pitch, but he could have set up at least two goals in the first half where he went past his man. I’m very excited for him and the future that’s coming.
“I said before the game that it was going to be tough regardless, and we withstood the test.
“We have to improve each and every day, especially at the start of the season where we are still building. It’s good to keep winning and working on things. This was a good step.”
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