Jurgen Klopp says he has come to expect nothing but the best from Virgil Van Dijk.
The inspirational defender scored both goals as Premier League leaders Liverpool increased their lead over champions Manchester City to 11 points with a nervy 2-1 win over Brighton on Saturday.
Van Dijk headed home twice from superb Trent Alexander-Arnold crosses in the first half at Anfield, putting his side on course for a comfortable triumph.
The expected cruise to victory did not materialise, chiefly because goalkeeper Alisson Becker was sent off for handball outside the area in the latter stages. Lewis Dunk pulled one back with a crafty free-kick and the 10-man Reds were left hanging on with deputy goalkeeper Adrian needing to make a number of saves.
But after the relief of the final whistle, the plaudits went to Van Dijk for a typically commanding display, although manager Klopp was keen to share the praise.
Klopp said: “He scored two goals – that’s the story itself. He’s good, really good, outstandingly good – but he has to be (because) he’s a very talented boy. He just has to use that talent and it would be a shame if he doesn’t.
"I am very, very happy about the effort the boys put in again, I'm really happy and proud about the desire the boys showed."— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 30, 2019
The boss on today's win 👊🔴 #LIVBHA
“So yes, he’s incredibly important but if Virgil played the last line alone it would be pretty difficult.
“I think Dejan Lovren, who maybe doesn’t get the headlines like this, with what he’s playing, he has all my respect.
“We had to replace Fabinho, which is a tough one. Hendo (Jordan Henderson) played a sensational game in that position together with Gini (Wijnaldum) and Ox (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain).
“It was a really good performance but we had to work really hard. And what I liked most, is that the boys were ready to do that. They didn’t think, ‘Brighton is coming, they have 15 points, so they cannot be that good’.
“They are really good and they have made life uncomfortable for all their opponents so far. Graham Potter is doing an outstanding job.
“If they start finishing the situations off that they create then it will be even more tough to play against them.”
Liverpool’s victory saw them equal the club record of 31 top-flight matches unbeatem, set in 1987-88.
That previous record run ended with defeat to Everton, their next opponents at Anfield on Wednesday. Alisson will miss that derby through suspension.
Brighton are next in action at Arsenal on Thursday and, although they have now lost three in succession, Dunk feels they can look ahead with confidence.
The Seagulls captain, who netted with a quick set-piece as Liverpool reorganised following Alisson’s dismissal, told the club’s website: “It shows we can come to the big teams and more than compete.
“If we can take the chances we create then we’ll be a really tough side to play.
“We have to learn from the start. We were too passive and the goals we conceded weren’t like us.
“But we have to take the positives from the other 75 minutes when we were in control.”