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Virgil van Dijk sends Darwin Nunez message after Liverpool captain refused to accept result at Nottingham Forest

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Virgil van Dijk led Liverpool to another victory to maintain Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League trable.

Making sure you don’t lose is a desirable trait of any team with sights on silverware. Finding a way to win, though, is what often separates contenders from champions.

And Liverpool have this season been underlining just why they remain in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple and a glorious farewell to the Jurgen Klopp era.

The quality evident last weekend when going the extra yard to win the League Cup in dramatic late fashion as Chelsea played for a penalty shoot-out was again on display during a frantic ending at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Darwin Nunez’s winner, arriving at 98 minutes and 35 seconds, was the latest decider Liverpool had ever scored in a Premier League match and was the third time the Reds had won a top-flight game in additional time this season following Nunez’s strike at Newcastle United in August and Harvey Elliott’s thunderbolt at Crystal Palace in December.
That relentlessness also earned late triumphs at Wolves and at home to Fulham, and secured draws at Manchester City and Luton Town, all with goals coming in the 80th minute or later.

No team has scored more times in the Premier League in the 90th minute or later than Liverpool since Klopp took charge in October 2015, a never-say-die spirit deeply ingrained within a squad that is once again realising the oft-quoted tag from their manager of being mentality monsters.

Indeed, captain Virgil van Dijk – scorer of the dramatic late winner at Wembley – refused to accept it wasn’t going to be Liverpool’s day at the City Ground.

“No, no, no, the game was not over so I still had the belief,” he says. “We’ve shown over the course of my time here that we never give up. We always keep going. We found a way and that’s the most important thing.

“Darwin’s been so important for us this season and it’s great to have him back out there. It’s a big goal and a well deserved win in the end.”

The goal was set up by a composed cross from Alexis Mac Allister, who has revelled in finally being released from his defensive midfield shackles in recent weeks and playing further upfield. “He’s an outstanding player both with and without the ball,” says Van Dijk. “He’s made such a big difference to the way we play in a positive sense. He has to keep doing that and stay fit.”

Forest were livid Liverpool had scored after the allocated eight minutes of stoppage time, which perhaps overlooked the fact both Morgan Gibbs-White and Danilo were booked for delaying the game during the additional period.

The home side had already been angered when, moments earlier, referee Paul Tierney opted to restart the game with a ball dropped to the feet of Caoimhin Kelleher after play was paused due to Ibrahima Konate’s head injury, despite Forest having possession on the left wing. In truth, the home side were fortunate captain Ryan Yates wasn’t penalised for a high boot during the scrap for possession in which Konate was hurt.

There had been a similar incident earlier in the game when play was stopped with Yates floored by a Harvey Elliott shot and the game restarted with Forest goalkeeper Matz Selz despite Liverpool being in possession. The ball, though, hadn’t left the penalty area before Tierney blew his whistle.

While it emerged the second restart was an incorrect call, almost two minutes had passed before Nunez’s dramatic winner, with Forest having subsequently regained possession twice before giving it back to Liverpool.

“When you lose in the last minute it’s never nice,” says Van Dijk. “I can understand that. We came here to get the three points and luckily we got them.”

The victory means Liverpool will be top at the end of this weekend’s round of games, with Thursday’s Europa League round of 16 first leg tie at Sparta Prague followed three days later by the blockbusting visit of fellow title contenders Manchester City.

Van Dijk, though, isn’t contemplating the possible impact of Saturday’s win on the title race. “I don’t know, we’ll see,” he says. “We will focus on Prague and then City.”

And if this season has taught us anything, it’s that Liverpool will keep playing until the very, very last minute.

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