Published: 22:17 | 30/11/19

Van Dijk relieved as Liverpool survive scare to extend lead to 11 points

Twp-goal hero Virgil van Dijk admitted to relief as ten-man Liverpool survived a second-half scare to extend their lead to 11 points with a 2-1 victory over Brighton.

The Reds have dropped just two points in their opening 14 league matches and equaled their record unbeaten run in the top-flight at 31 games.

Their 40-point haul is the same accrued by Manchester City at the same stage two seasons ago when they went on to rack up 100 points.

But Liverpool don't make it easy for themselves and apart from their 3-1 win against City have not beaten a team in the league by more than one goal since September.

Their Champions League exertions in midweek when they drew 1-1 with Napoli might have played its part.

They seemed to be coasting to the points after Van Dijk netted a headed double in the opening half, but they had to ride their luck after keeper Alisson Becker was sent-off for handling outside his box.

The first thing substitute Adrian did was fish the ball out of his own net after Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk reduced the arrears from the resultant free-kick, but the leaders held on to claim the points.

"We played a few days ago so energy is always a little bit less than usual if you have a full week to prepare, but we have to deal with it and manage the game a little bit better.

"We could have done that better today, but we won and that's the most important thing. Unfortunately, we got that red card with Alisson then we just had to defend."

On the sending-off, Van Dijk added: "We should have done better. We put him in that situation, but it is what it is. We have to deal with it. It is a disappointment but we go again."

The news that back-to-back champions City had dropped two points at Newcastle in the lunch-time kick-off brought early festive cheer to Anfield.

It took just under 20 minutes for the home side to take advantage of City's slip-up with Van Dijk rising to head a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick into the roof of the net.

Within five minutes the same combination doubled the Reds' lead. This time the Dutchman powerfully connected with an Alexander-Arnold corner at the near post.

It was just the second time Van Dijk had scored a double for the Reds - the other was in a 5-0 victory over Watford last season.

He added: "Obviously I am one of the main targets for attacking set-pieces. It is not easy because I get marked normally by the best defensive header of the ball."

Brighton waited over half-an-hour to threaten for the first time and skipper Lewis Dunk should have reduced the arrears but bundled his effort wide with just six yards.

Brighton sensed a glimmer of hope when Alisson rashly raced out of his box and used his arm to deny a goal-bound lob from substitute Leandro Trossard.

The Brazilian's red card means he will miss Wednesday's Merseyside derby against Everton. 

His replacement Adrian was still marshalling his wall when Dunk reacted quickly to the referee's whistle and struck his free-kick into the corner of the net.

Adrian fumbled a Pascal Gross header in the dying moments before gratefully clutching the ball on his line.

By Russell Stoddart

Image: Getty Images

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