Virgil Van Dijk Believes Real Madrid 'Ganged Up On' Teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold In CL Final
The Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk has been revealed what he feels was the key turning point in the Reds' ultimately fruitless attempt at taking the Champions League trophy back to Merseyside from Kiev last May.
Speaking while away on international duty with the Netherlands, the towering centre-half has singled out the way in which the three-times champions Real Madrid ‘ganged up on’ the inexperienced Trent Alexander Arnold as an important factor.
‘Mentally, something changed for Real Madrid once Salah left the pitch,' Van Dijk told De Telegraaf.
'Suddenly Marcelo, Benzema and Ronaldo all ganged up against our young right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and left the whole right flank free.
'With Salah, they would not have dared.'
The Egyptian was playing out the last club game of a sensational season, during which he scored a remarkable 44 goals, including 11 notched during the Reds' thrilling run in the competition, when he was injured in a coming together with the Real pantomime villain Sergio Ramos.
Salah played on for a few minutes but was unable to continue and was forced off with a shoulder problem as a result of the challenge less than a half hour into the game - while it was still scoreless.
Zinedine Zidane’s side went on to win the game 3-1, with the cross for Gareth Bale’s spectacular overhead kick, a goal that put Madrid into a 2-1 lead with an hour gone, coming after Marcelo jinked away from Alexander-Arnold on the Reds’ left flank.
Watching that replay back, it’s not difficult to get on board with the Dutchman’s assessment. Perhaps even more impactful, though, was the deflating influence of the Egyptians departure on his teammates.
The tangible sense of threat that they had carried right the way through to Kiev seemed to desert them when Salah departed.