Virgil van Dijk claims Napoli win can act as springboard to Champions League glory for Liverpool

With the current form of Mohamed Salah it is perhaps no surprise to find Van Dijk confident for the rest of the Champions League campaign. (AFP)
Updated 12 December 2018

Virgil van Dijk claims Napoli win can act as springboard to Champions League glory for Liverpool

LIVERPOOL: Virgil Van Dijk has claimed Liverpool can use their Champions League escape against Napoli as a springboard to win Europe’s elite club competition.
Jurgen Klopp’s side booked their place in the last 16 with a tense 1-0 win over Napoli at Anfield on Tuesday night.
A fine finish from Mohamed Salah put Liverpool ahead, but the Reds needed goalkeeper Alisson to make a superb save to deny Arkadiusz Milik in the closing seconds before they could finally relax.
Liverpool are also top of the Premier League after going unbeaten in their first 16 games this season, raising the prospect of Klopp’s men winning a first English title since 1990 while also challenging for a sixth European Cup.
Dutch defender Van Dijk sees no reason why Liverpool cannot win the Champions League this term after going close last year, when they lost in the final against Real Madrid.
“It’s something that we all want, it’s something that we are going to give everything for,” Van Dijk said.
“We want to play on the highest level and the Champions League, other than the Premier League, for us is the highest level.
“We want to reach the maximum and hopefully do better than we did last year in the Champions League. You need to have dreams, you need to go for it, otherwise why would you be a footballer?
“It’s a great time to be a Liverpool fan or player. It’s tough but enjoy it and embrace it. These are the days you want to experience as a footballer and we are.”
Liverpool have conceded just six goals in the league this season and, after some less solid displays in their previous Champions League games, they managed to replicate that domestic defensive strength to keep Napoli at bay.
Van Dijk revealed much of that is built on the team ethic which means the players being confident enough to challenge each other in order to maintain their high standards.
“You need to be hard with each other. When things aren’t going right you need to tell each other, otherwise it’s going to be too easy. I think that’s a sign of a good team,” he said.
“When people are shouting at me I take it because they want to make me better and (if it is) their mistake they take it as well if I shout to them.
“That’s how it is, we’re all grown-ups, we take it and after the game if you’re not happy with it then you discuss it.”
Van Dijk said Liverpool had been frustrated at missing “big chances” against Napoli, including one opportunity that he himself volleyed over the bar.
“We could have made it a lot easier, we could have scored another two or three, we didn’t, and then it was important for us to win our battles and keep it tight and we did,” he said.


Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova to clash in US Open first round blockbuster

Updated 22 August 2019

Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova to clash in US Open first round blockbuster

  • Williams has dominated the Russian star in their head-to-head rivalry
  • Sharapova advanced by walkover against Williams in the fourth round at Roland Garros last year

NEW YORK: Serena Williams will begin her quest for a seventh US Open title and record-tying 24th Grand Slam victory against long-time rival Maria Sharapova in the US Open women’s singles draw unveiled Thursday.
Williams has dominated the Russian star in their head-to-head rivalry, winning 19 times with only two defeats, including their past 18 meetings, most recently at the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals, although Sharapova advanced by walkover against Williams in the fourth round at Roland Garros last year.
Eighth-ranked Williams is looking to match the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles won by Margaret Court when the year’s final major championship gets under way Monday.
The 37-year-old American has dropped her past three Grand Slam finals appearances, including last month to Simona Halep at Wimbledon and last year to Japan’s Naomi Osaka at the US Open after a controversial game penalty for her tirade at umpire Carlos Ramos.
Tournament officials have said Ramos will not work any matches involving Serena or Venus Williams, who could not face her sister until the semifinals, being in the same draw quarter as Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova.
Serena was placed into the same quarter as Australian second seed Ashleigh Barty, the reigning French Open champion whose first match is against 77th-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.
Top-seeded Osaka opens against Russia’s 93rd-ranked Anna Blinkova and could face a third-round date against 15-year-old American Coco Gauff, who eliminated Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon in a run to the last 16 in her Grand Slam debut.
Romania’s fourth-seeded Halep, coming off her second Grand Slam title, opens against a qualifier and could face a semifinal against Osaka, who defends a Slam crown for the first time.
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Osaka said. “Everyone knows I love it here.”
Osaka retired in the third set of a quarter-final match at Cincinnati with a left knee injury but said Thursday she expects no problems with playing at the US Open.
“It’s geting better. I’m a fast healer,” Osaka said. “I’m here and I feel like I’ll be able to play.”
Osaka said while she might watch players who are unfamiliar, she isn’t one to analyze the draw beyond her next opponent.
“I like to know what that one person I’m playing is,” she said. “I like to focus my attention on that one.”
Pliskova, who lost her only Grand Slam final to Germany’s Angelique Kerber at the 2016 US Open, plays her first match against a qualifier.
Venus Williams, 39, won the 2000 and 2001 US Opens but hasn’t won a Slam since her fifth Wimbledon title in 2008. She opens against China’s Zheng Saisai and could meet fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round.