Andy Robertson: We did not miss van Dijk as much as people expected
Midfielder Henderson deputised at the back in Dutchman's absence
Liverpool's defensive rock Virgil van Dijk was conspicuous by his absence during their last-gasp 2-1 win over Monterrey in the Club World Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The Dutch international, who had started every match for the club this season, except in the League Cup, was ruled out of the semi-final at the Khalifa International Stadium due to illness.
Skipper and midfielder Jordan Henderson, who took his place in central defence, partnering Joe Gomez, did a creditable job in his first competitive outing as centre-back.
But the Reds seemed to miss van Dijk's calming influence as Monterrey, the Concacaf Champions League winners, troubled Liverpool's backline with alarming regularity. They registered 16 attempts on Alisson's goal, with eight of them on target.
Liverpool's energetic left-back Andy Robertson, however, disagreed that the Reds lacked defensive steel without the Dutchman.
Responding to The New Paper's question on whether Monterrey's dominance had shown how much the Reds missed van Dijk, Robertson raised his eyebrows, before saying: "No, I don't think so.
"Look, he is a massive leader and he leads from the back.
"But to be honest, and no disrespect to Virgil, I don't think we missed him as much as people expected us to.
"I thought Hendo and Joe did brilliantly tonight.
"Of course, I rather Virgil be there at the back rather than Hendo, and Hendo would agree with that as well.
"So, it would be good if we can get the injured players back, because they are world-class defenders and the defence will be stronger."
Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip, the other centre-backs, are unavailable due to injury.
Liverpool expectedly dominated the opening minutes and were rewarded after a fine move in the 12th minute, when crowd favourite Mohamed Salah played a sumptuous reverse pass in behind the Monterrey defence to find Naby Keita, who had advanced from midfield.
The Guinean duly slotted in the opener.
REASON TO CHEER
The goal failed to deter a group of 200 Mexican fans among the 45,416 spectators who were still belting out their chants.
And they had a legitimate reason to cheer just two minutes later when Monterrey found an equaliser.
Dorlan Pabon found space in the box to muster a shot at goal. Alisson palmed the effort away but the ball landed at the feet of Rogelio Funes Mori, who took a touch before finding the net from mere metres out.
The goal settled the Mexican side's nerves as they looked a completely different team after scoring, taking the game to the European champions.
Pabon was a constant menace, forcing Alisson into two good saves in the first half. The Brazilian was made to work hard, more than he has done in England this season, and more than he had expected in Doha.
But the Reds had the last laugh with substitute Roberto Firmino turning the ball into the net in stoppage time after a stupendous pass into the box from right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who had also come off the bench.
Liverpool will face Brazilian side Flamengo in the final on Sunday morning, and Robertson is eyeing his second winners' medal this season, after the Uefa Super Cup success in August.
He said: "We are over here to try and win it. We have made the first step and made it to the final.
"We know it's going to be hard in the final and we have to be at our best to beat them."
Their task would definitely be easier, if van Dijk recovers in time.