Virgil van Dijk pays thanks to Liverpool and family after friendly comeback

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have lifted Liverpool by making successful playing returns following their long-term injuries.

The centre-halves, out for much of last season with major knee injuries, made their comebacks in Liverpool’s 4-3 friendly defeat to Hertha Berlin in Austria on Thursday evening. Van Dijk and Gomez both stepped off the bench for the final 20 minutes in Innsbruck, where Jürgen Klopp’s side played their second full 90-minute match of their mini-tour.

The Netherlands captain had been out since undergoing surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right leg after a clash with Everton’s Jordan Pickford in October’s Merseyside derby. Van Dijk was quick to praise his support network after his return.

He wrote on Twitter: “285 days ago, I started on a journey back towards playing. It’s hard to express how I am feeling, but it’s important to me that I say I feel blessed to have had the support of so many incredible people. The surgeon, my physios, coaches and staff who have been with me in my corner since day one. My teammates for giving me energy and keeping my head up.

“The fans for their love, support and encouragement. And most of all, my family because without them, I’d be nothing. Thank you. The work doesn’t stop now. It’s only just starting. We keep going!” Van Dijk also tweeted a picture of an excerpt from the Bible – Isaiah’s “path of the righteous”.

Gomez has also recovered from knee surgery, to repair a tendon which he damaged while training with England for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland in November. Trent Alexander-Arnold also got some much needed minutes against Hertha after missing Euro 2020 with a thigh injury.

Hertha led 2-0 after 31 minutes through Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar before Liverpool hit back to be level at half-time. Kostas Tsimikas crossed for Sadio Mané to convert from close range and Takumi Minamino hit the equaliser after fine work from Mohamed Salah.

Liverpool’s 16-year-old substitute, Kaide Gordon, twice went close before Hertha regained the lead through Stevan Jovetic. He ran clear to slide home Hertha’s fourth goal and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 88th-minute volley made it 4-3.

The defeat was Liverpool’s first in pre-season following two 1-1 draws in mini-matches against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart and last Friday’s 1-0 win against Mainz.

During the Hertha friendly, Liverpool were wearing black armbands in memory of Andrew Devine. The players and staff had earlier observed 97 seconds of silence at their training base in Austria as a tribute to Andrew who died this week due to the severe brain damage he sustained in the crush at Hillsborough in 1989.

Andre Rebello, the senior coroner of Liverpool, ruled that Devine died directly due to those brain injuries “which were to prove fatal 32 years later”, and that he was legally the 97th victim of the disaster.