The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti may have lent Everton a more cultured sheen, however it was the same old Blues in last week’s Merseyside derby, as yet another Liverpool player—this time star defender Virgil Van Dijk—ended up injured.
Most Reds supporters still can’t bear to watch Everton goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford effectively ended the Dutchman’s season with a scything tackle in the opening minutes of the match, resulting in a torn ACL.
The VAR referee on the day earned himself a demotion by the Premier League after failing to immediately recommend a stone-cold red card. The FA then left much to be desired by declining to hand down a retroactive suspension for England’s no. 1, leading to outcry from fans that justice had not been served.
Ancelotti has come out in defense of his first-choice stopper while also apologizing for the incident:
“To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk. Every one of us hopes he can recover soon and well,” he told the Everton club site.
“There was this contact with Jordan Pickford: it was mistimed contact but the fact the Premier League is so fast, it is not so difficult to arrive a little bit later.
“It can happen. He arrived a little bit later, but his intention was to try to catch the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk.
Intentional or not, Pickford made an incredibly poor and dangerous decision that was unjustly allowed to slide without repercussion. Ancelotti, however, chose not to address the issue, but to instead attack a straw man argument that the Englishman went into the challenge with bad intentions:
“To say it was pre-meditated and this and that, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this. This is football and unfortunately you can be injured,” the Italian continued.
“Jordan is really sad, really disappointed [Van Dijk is injured] but to say it was pre-meditated, it was stupid, is not fair.
“It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football it can happen.”
It is an injustice that Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp will not allow his side to use as an excuse as they push on through the season. It will simply be another hurdle to overcome so that the Reds can pick up and go again.