Van Dijk injury causes concern for frustrated Liverpool

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Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk, centre, is tackled and injured by Everton's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, left, causing him to leave the match injured during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park stadium, in Liverpool, England, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Laurence Griffiths/Pool via AP)

Virgil van Dijk has been a commanding — even transcendent — presence at the heart of Liverpool’s defense throughout the team’s rise to the top of English and European soccer in recent years.

In a major concern for the Premier League champions, they might have to learn how to cope without their warrior at the back for quite some time.

Early in what proved to be a painful Merseyside derby for Liverpool, Van Dijk was the subject of a reckless lunge by Jordan Pickford that saw the Everton goalkeeper clatter into the extended right leg of the Netherlands defender.

Van Dijk roared in agony and, tellingly, stayed down. And that was when Jürgen Klopp knew it was serious.

“Virgil played I don’t know how many games in a row, he plays with pain, but he couldn’t play on and that’s not good,” Klopp said after the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.

Indeed, Van Dijk — English soccer’s player of the year from 2018-19 who had played every minute of Liverpool’s previous 74 league games, dating back to September 2018 — immediately came off after lengthy treatment and hobbled gingerly around the field to the locker room.

There was no official word from Liverpool on the potential length of his absence, but Van Dijk reportedly left hospital on crutches in the evening. Broadcaster beIN Sports said it has received information that the player has damaged his anterior cruciate ligament.

With the draw, Liverpool extended its 10-year unbeaten record against its neighbor but Klopp was a frustrated man as he made the short trip home from Goodison.