(Reuters) - Liverpool missed the calming presence of defender Virgil van Dijk in their 2-1 victory over Mexico’s Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final on Wednesday, former midfielder Harry Kewell said.
Dutch international Van Dijk missed the match through illness and manager Juergen Klopp was forced to play midfielder Jordan Henderson in a makeshift defence, with centre backs Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip also out injured.
Liverpool grabbed a stoppage-time winner through substitute Roberto Firmino after team mate Naby Keita’s goal was cancelled out by Rogelio Funes Mori and Kewell said that his former team were far from comfortable without Van Dijk.
“When I watch Liverpool, I see Virgil constantly talking to everyone around him. He’s always communicating with full backs and people in front of him,” Kewell, a part of the Liverpool side that lost the 2005 Club World Championship final, told BBC Sport.
“Yes people talk about him being a great defender because he can play out from the back and is comfortable on the ball, but a defender’s first job is to defend, and in the case of Van Dijk, it is to organise the rest of his defence too.
“That’s what Liverpool missed the most against Monterrey. No one had his kind of defensive vision or ability to spot danger.”
Klopp’s side face Brazilian outfit Flamengo in Saturday’s final, a repeat of the 1981 Intercontinental Cup when a Zico-inspired team beat Liverpool 3-0 in Tokyo.
“Clearly, they need him (Van Dijk) back in the team to face Flamengo — if he’s fit, Liverpool will be calm and comfortable at the back and everyone will be a lot more relaxed,” Kewell added.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford