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English Premier League

Everton’s Holgate deletes Twitter account after Firmino flashpoint as Van Dijk’s debut Liverpool goal seals FA Cup derby

Football Association set to investigate angry exchange after Everton defender pushes Brazilian into stands to spark clash during Liverpool’s 2-1 win

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 11:56am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 2018, 9:46pm

Liverpool have said they will assist with any investigation arising out of an incident between Roberto Firmino and Everton’s Mason Holgate during their 2-1 FA Cup win at Anfield on Friday.

The pair were involved in an angry exchange after the Everton defender pushed the Brazilian into the front row of the Main Stand, and words were exchanged that left Holgate incensed.

Referee Bobby Madley is expected to refer to the flashpoint in his match report to the Football Association.

“The club and player will fully cooperate with the relevant authorities to ensure the facts are established in a thorough manner if deemed necessary or requested,” said a Liverpool spokesman.

“While that process is ongoing we will not be making any further comment.”

Everton manager Sam Allardyce was asked in his post-match press conference whether the incident was sparked by a racist comment and said: “I’m telling you nothing until whatever systems are used to find out exactly what happened and what didn’t happen.

“I’m here to talk about football, not about controversial incidents. I only want to talk about football.

“Anything else outside that that happens has to be dealt with by the authorities.”

Asked whether he has spoken to Holgate, Allardyce added: “I wouldn’t tell anybody in this press conference because it is not about that for me.

“That is in the other areas of the football club so I’ve left that with the director of football [Steve Walsh] and said, ‘sort that out’.”

Walsh was seen in discussion with Everton’s media team in the Anfield tunnel after Allardyce’s press conference but the club have yet to make a comment.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp refused to be drawn on the issue.

“I only heard about something but I can’t say anything about it because so far I couldn’t speak to anybody and I think, from now on, first of all the club will answer,” he said.

“I don’t really know anything about it. I misjudged the situation obviously completely, because I thought it was about a Holgate foul.”

Soon after the final whistle Holgate deleted his Twitter account.

Klopp said the match was not a showcase for the best football, describing it as a “proper fight” between the Merseyside rivals.

Debutant Virgil van Dijk headed home six minutes from full-time to put Liverpool into the fourth round after Gylfi Sigurdsson had cancelled out James Milner’s opener from the penalty spot.

Klopp said he did not feel his side deserved the penalty for Holgate’s challenge on Adam Lallana in the first half.

“It was a similar situation [to the penalty against Liverpool for Everton last month] – the first one was no penalty in my opinion and this one wasn’t also,” he said.

“It’s the same. There is contact and the referee used his whistle. Exactly the same situation.”

Van Dijk became the most expensive defender in the world when he joined Liverpool from Southampton for £75 million (US$102 million) this month and Klopp believes the Dutchman will get even better after a “fairytale” Merseyside derby debut.

“Fairy tale in a world with not a lot of fairy tales any more, so I think something like that is quite special,” said the Liverpool boss.

“It was a difficult decision to make to be honest because, to be 100 per cent honest, the first plan was not to start him but then Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan played a lot of games in the last few weeks, so I changed my mind.

Van Dijk was a commanding presence at the heart of Liverpool’s defence, although Klopp thinks the centre-back has only given a glimpse of his qualities.

“He showed a lot of things we want him to show in the future very often,” Klopp added.

“Heading of course, football-wise his first touch was good, good under pressure and then around set pieces a proper threat.

“First of all we should help him just to be as good as he is already because that’s why we took him. You don’t pay that amount of money for a player and think ‘OK, we can get another 80 per cent’, but of course there is room for improvement.

“But the first improvement will be to adapt really to the team, how we deal in different situations. But as I said, since he is in, we spoke more about it and we did it actually on the pitch.”