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Virgil van Dijk had a key involvement in Liverpool's winning goal in the dramatic 3-2 victory over Newcastle United at St James' Park last night.
The PFA Player of the Year opened the scoring with a 13th minute header but his most important contribution in the must-win game was telling Xherdan Shaqiri to take the late free-kick from which the Reds' scored the winner - ensuring the title race with Manchester City goes down to the final day.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, already on two assists in the game, lined up to whip the ball in from the right after Fabinho managed to con the linesman into thinking Matt Richie had fouled him.
But Van Dijk instructed substitute Shaqiri to supply an inswinging delivery and it ultimately paid dividends as Divock Origi was able to head home past Martin Dubravka courtesy of a deflection off Jamaal Lascelles.
Virgil van Dijk takes Liverpool leadership to a new level by ordering Xherdan Shaqiri to take the free kick which led to their winning goal pic.twitter.com/VetakJlYS5- Lilian Chan (@bestgug) May 5, 2019
Brilliant leadership from Liverpool's No.4. Alexander-Arnold has a wicked delivery in his locker but Van Dijk was spot on in believing a curling in-swinger would do more damage. He should probably share the assist with Shaqiri, if that's possible.
Gary Neville praised the Dutchman's actions and highlighted what Van Dijk taking the initiative says about him as a person, not just a player.
"We say quite often that you don't often see leaders on a pitch alter things and change what's happening," Neville said on Sky Sports after the game.
"For him to say, 'No, you're not taking it. You're taking it!' is a risk. If it doesn't work then Jurgen Klopp might ask after the game why Trent didn't take that out-swinging free-kick. If Shaqiri puts that over the bar and wastes it, he might go mad.
"It's a big risk to do that as a player but I think that's actually something that defines Van Dijk as a person, not just as a player."
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