Virgil van Dijk has explained clash with Sokratis Papastathopoulos during Arsenal win

Blackburn Rovers v Liverpool - Pre-Season Friendly

Virgil van Dijk attracted plenty of praise from Liverpool fans during the win over Arsenal.

Although there wasn't a customary clean sheet to be celebrate at Anfield, a hat-trick from Roberto Firmino, as well as goals from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, ensured a 5-1 win for the Reds.

And Van Dijk was typically imperious throughout, smothering an Arsenal attack that has caused havoc against a number of Premier League defences this season.

The dominance of the Liverpool back four was no better demonstrated than by the fact Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who featured for 71 minutes, was allowed just 13 touches during the game.

However, Van Dijk was also delivering some first-class defending off the pitch as well as on it.

Van Dijk-Sokrates scuffle

That's because the Dutchman received widespread plaudits from Liverpool fans after he came to Mohamed Salah's aid during a scuffle with Sokratis Papastathopoulos at half-time.

Sokratis and Salah had been involved in the tackle that had to Liverpool's fourth goal before the break and the Arsenal man expressed his discontent at the interval.

Nevertheless, Van Dijk acted quickly and footage of him confronting Sokratis quickly went viral across Twitter, with many fans even claiming it should captain-material.

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Van Dijk opens up on the incident

And in the aftermath of the episode, Liverpool's lead centre-back has cleared up what really happened and it seems Sokratis was throwing about allegations of 'diving.'

According to the Independent, Van Dijk recounted: “I saw that he went to Mo and was saying that he dived. He was attacking him a bit, but I wanted to say he didn’t dive.

“Obviously everyone came around us and it looked like we were fighting or something but we weren’t. I just wanted to talk to him. But that happens in football and we move on.

“I’m protecting my team-mates and that’s normal, that’s how everyone should react and that’s what we all need to do, to back each other. That’s what I definitely do.”

Sokratis picked the wrong player and team to mess with.

It's generally accepted that Liverpool's first penalty was correctly rewarded and even if it wasn't, Van Dijk wasn't going to stand around while his teammate was accused of cheating.

As he explains himself, he simply had to protect his close friend and was quickly joined by both Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.

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Now, however, Van Dijk has turned his attentions to 2019 and continued: “We have finished 2018 now pretty well and hopefully we can keep that going. City is a game that we want to win.

“It will be very hard, very tough, but for them as well. It’s going be a good match, but it is not a decisive game or something like that.

“We are not going to treat it different to any other. We will be prepared for a very tough game."

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