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Saturday 24 August 2019

Virgil: 'It's not over yet'

Van Dijk won't give up on Euro dream despite losing out to a Messi-inspired Barca outfit

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Reuters
Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk. Photo: Reuters
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal during the Champions League semi-final win over Liverpool at the Nou Camp. Photo: Reuters

Virgil Van Dijk insists Liverpool's players still believe they can reach another Champions League final despite their 3-0 semi-final first-leg defeat in Barcelona.

Lionel Messi struck twice in the last 15 minutes to turn a one-goal deficit into an almost insurmountable task for the Reds at Anfield next week.

Jurgen Klopp's side were denied an important away goal with Roberto Firmino's shot cleared off the line and Mohamed Salah's follow-up smashing against a post, but Van Dijk said the general performance gave them hope of a miraculous comeback.

"I am disappointed but the result on the scoresheet does not really reflect how well we played and what the game was like," said the Holland captain.

"We had some big chances - should have scored one and they could have scored a fourth - but it is 3-0 and we have a big job to do at Anfield.

"But we have shown throughout the season that we never give up. We need everyone to be together and let's see how it goes.

"The only thing is that we can only keep believing and keep working hard for each other and stay positive and there is no reason to panic.

"We believe. We will keep believing."

Harsh

The scoreline was harsh on Klopp's side as, for a 20-minute spell in the second half, they had their hosts under pressure to the extent home manager Ernesto Valverde changed formation and brought on an extra defender.

But not being able to take their chances against a side like Barcelona ultimately cost Liverpool.

"I think after the break we kept pressing and kept playing well and we were unlucky we did not score," added Van Dijk, whose side were beaten finalists in the competition last year.

"We know how tough it can be with the quality they have throughout the pitch but we showed at times we could definitely create good chances against them and make it difficult.

"We had to be brave and we had to defend bravely and at times it was one v one with me and Joe (Gomez) and (Luis) Suarez and Messi.

"But especially with the pressing we had to stay brave and there are plenty of things we have to improve on.

"Overall, disappointed with the result but there were so many things that happened so we have to build on that.

"They still have that extra quality but we will try to do everything possible to go through."

Attention now turns to tomorrow's trip to Newcastle, which Liverpool have to win to maintain the pressure on Premier League leaders Manchester City, who face Leicester on Monday.

"Obviously now the focus is on Newcastle which is a big job and after that we try everything to go through," said Van Dijk.

"It is a totally different challenge. It will be tough up there and not easy to get a result but we will try everything.

"We have to stay confident. This (result) should not put us down or anything and there is plenty of positives to take even though there are things to improve."

Reward

Klopp was disappointed his side did not get the reward their performance deserved.

"I am not sure if we deserved a lot more than we got. We played a really good football game, but in the end they scored three and we didn't score and we just need to accept that," said Klopp.

"As a manager, what I judge on is how we played. I am completely happy and proud of the boys.

"I think it was the best Champions League game we played not only this year but last year as well. Against a side like this, playing this kind of football I was completely happy. "Whatever happens, these boys, I couldn't be more proud of them.

"People who haven't seen the game will see the result and say strange things about it, but they always strike back in these kind of games. How brave they are, I just like it.

"And in the end it is still 3-0, it will not change. So let's fly home and play Newcastle."

Liverpool are still assessing midfielder Naby Keita's injury but it would seem likely his season is now over.

The Guinea international was forced off midway through the first half against Barcelona with what is understood to be a groin injury and he was seen limping heavily as he walked to the team coach after the match.

While the club have not confirmed Keita will miss their two remaining Premier League matches against Newcastle and Wolves - and next week's return leg - his chances of recovering are remote.

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