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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 9 April, 2020

Aaron Connolly reflects on his tussle with 'the best defender in the world'

The Irish teenager started for Brighton & Hove Albion in their 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League.

Brighton & Hove Albion's Aaron Connolly (file pic) and Virgil van Dijk, who scored twice for Liverpool on Saturday.
Brighton & Hove Albion's Aaron Connolly (file pic) and Virgil van Dijk, who scored twice for Liverpool on Saturday.

THERE WAS A moment in Saturday’s game between Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion when Aaron Connolly was provided with a small example of why Virgil van Dijk is so highly regarded.

“I thought I was in and then and he [Van Dijk] comes back and he’s toed it back to his keeper and I’m just thinking, sometimes you have to appreciate you are playing against the best defender in the world,” the Galway youngster explained to the Brighton & Hove Independent.

After recovering from a groin injury, Connolly returned to lead the Brighton attack as the central striker in their 2-1 Premier League defeat at Anfield. Both Liverpool goals were scored by Van Dijk, who’s one of the front-runners for the Ballon d’Or award.

“To play against someone like that at 19 can only help,” Connolly added of his tussle with Van Dijk. “Obviously he’s a brilliant player so it was tough but I thought I did okay. We just need to focus on Arsenal now because the games are going to come quick now.”

Lewis Dunk’s 79th free-kick for Brighton made for a nervy finish for Liverpool, but the European champions held out for another victory which keeps them eight points clear at the top of the table.

“The gaffer’s game plan worked but if you cancel out that first 15 minutes then we come away with a point, if not three,” Connolly said. “At any level, to concede two goals from set-pieces, you can’t really do it.

“You can’t give someone like that [Van Dijk] that much space, especially when he is that big. We need to learn from that. We can’t concede two set-pieces and expect to get a result. But after that I thought we dominated the match.”

The Irish international added: “It was a tough result to take because we could have got a point or even a win. But you can’t concede two set-pieces away at Liverpool and expect to win.”

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Paul Dollery

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