Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk admits he has to stay focused on the job he has to do despite opposition teams seemingly now targeting his centre-back partner as a weak spot.
Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson attached himself to the Dutchman’s fellow central defender Joe Gomez and his physicality helped give them the lead at Anfield before the Reds fought back to win 2-1 for a league record 22nd consecutive home top-flight victory.
It was a tactic Watford employed with Troy Deeney in their surprise 3-0 victory a week ago which ended the Premier League leaders’ unbeaten run.
However, manager Jurgen Klopp attributed that to their failure to deal with ‘second balls’ which is why Van Dijk accepts he cannot go looking to help out his fellow defender.
“Obviously, teams have been looking at us and trying to find difficulties for us,” said Van Dijk. “I think first and foremost, if the ball goes to them (his defensive partner), they challenge.
“Whether you win it or lose it ,the most important thing is the second ball.
“When the goalkeeper has the ball, they tried to get into a position to challenge with Philip Billing and they tried to get Callum Wilson with Joe in the middle.
“It is something teams will try to be clever with but the most important thing is the second ball because you cannot score from that.
“I have to be in the right position when Joe is challenging for that and the midfielders are the same.”
Three more wins will be enough for Liverpool to lift their first title in 30 years – less if Manchester City drop points in either of their two matches in hand.
After three defeats in four matches in all competitions, it was imperative the Reds returned to winning ways ahead of Wednesday’s vital Champions League last-16 second-leg tie against Atletico Madrid when Klopp’s side must overturn a 1-0 deficit.
The show of character they displayed in recovering from Wilson’s early goal – after his apparent push on Gomez had been deemed not to be a foul by referee Paul Tierney – was therefore significant.
Mohamed Salah’s 80th goal in his 100th Premier League appearance made him the first Liverpool player since Michael Owen in 2002-03 to score 20-plus goals in three-successive seasons, while also taking him past Luis Suarez as the club’s leading overseas Premier League scorer.
Sadio Mane’s coolly-taken effort eight minutes later turned around the game before half-time.
Under-pressure Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is trying to remain confident despite just three victories in 18 league matches leaving them mired in relegation trouble.
“The last six games we have been a lot better, back to creating goals, looking a lot better. But ultimately, at this stage of the season with games running out it is about points and I would take points over performances,” he said.
“You saw a team that was very motivated and hungry to do well, with quality as well.
“We have to take that confidence and use it.”