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Featured Image Credit: Image: BT Sport
Serie A champions Inter were beaten 2-0 in the first leg by the six-time European champions, with Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah scoring late on in the second half.
Centre-back Van Dijk picked up the Man of the Match award for a dogged defensive display and one piece of play summed up what a genius of a defender he is.
Near the end of the first half, the Reds were stretched when Edin Dzeko played through strike partner Lautaro Martinez on the counter.
The Argentine was one-on-one with Van Dijk, who was the last man at the back for Liverpool.
Lautaro Martínez 🤣🤣🤣 … i thought people always say VVD always run from attackers , he’s slow . But video says otherwise lol Van Dijk 🔴🔥. pic.twitter.com/2rdLHX3ejy— Nana-Sam® (@nana_samk) February 17, 2022
But the Dutch defender controlled the situation impeccably. Martinez, knowing full well how quick, strong and intelligent Van Dijk is, looked frightened to death to even attempt a dribble and ended up slowing himself down.
Meanwhile Van Dijk jockied the forward and waited for him to make the move rather than diving in.
In the end, Martinez hesitated so much that Thiago Alcantara got back and put the ball out for a corner.
Fans absolutely loved the expert defensive work from Van Dijk:
Martinez knew he weren’t taking on Van Dijk— ً (@_Riddxck) February 16, 2022
Martinez went to run at Van Dijk and then just said nah you’re alright lol— Danny Corcoran (@calcio_danny) February 16, 2022
Van Dijk's composure is fascinating to watch. Even on a 1v1 situation with a very good forward like Martinez he looks in control of the situation. Never makes a last man challenge. Trust himself to cut the threat out and almost always does.— CFC Central (@CFCCentral3) February 16, 2022
That moment in the game when Lautaro Martinez had the chance to have a race with Van Dijk and he just thought...nah.. not doing this with Big Virj. That shows how much respect strikers around Europe have for Virgil van Dijk. #UCL #InterLiverpool— Focus & Drive (@uyakonwu1) February 16, 2022
Lautaro Martinez was scared to go 1v1 against Van Dijk😭😭— Finessin' (@Ozzyolamide) February 16, 2022
It’s amazing how few forwards even attempt to take Van Dijk on in one-on-one situations. Martinez there just knew there was no point trying. Most do the same #UCL— Josh Wright (@_WrightJosh) February 16, 2022
The passage of play from Van Dijk drew huge praise from former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand in his analysis on BT Sport.
"This is about respect, earning respect over the years," Ferdinand said.
"You see van Dijk here, he is saying one vs one, the only place you [Martinez] are going to go, I’m going to show you down there [away from goal]. And if you choose to go down there, I’ll beat you for pace, I’ll bully you for strength."
Van Dijk's imperious showing was with the captain's armband on, with regular skipper Jordan Henderson among the substitutes before being introduced in the second half.
Van Dijk's ability to come out on top in one-on-one situations is one of his most impressive traits and recently the former Southampton man gave a masterclass in duels for a video with the F2 Freestylers.
Explaining his thought process to Jeremy Lynch, Van Dijk said: "I try to look at your eyes.
"If someone is in front of you and they're very technical and doing all sorts of tricks and stuff, you might be thinking: 'what's going on here?'
So, you can see in their body language and in my case, I like to look in some players' eyes."