Virgil van Dijk has a new objective as Naby Keita sends a timely message to Liverpool.
The 11,000 Tivoli Stadion patrons were forced to wait for well over an hour.
They were rewarded to the biggest moment of Liverpool’s pre-season so far with 68 minutes on the clock.
Virgil van Dijk received a standing ovation approximately 15 minutes before kick-off in Austria, implying that the No.4 was in for a big introduction when his number was finally called on Thursday evening.
And it showed as he joined the fray alongside his good friend, Joe Gomez, to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Every pass from the duo was greeted with thunderous applause, before a characteristic Van Dijk searcher from right to left received the loudest applause of the evening.
The Netherlands captain will be frustrated that he let two-goal Stevan Jovetic score Hertha’s fourth goal in a one-on-one situation, but ring rust is unavoidable after such a long layoff due to a catastrophic injury.
Van Dijk is still unlikely to start this season against Norwich on August 14, having not played competitively since October of last year – 285 days to be exact.
At the moment, Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip are leading that particular race.
In reality, we may not see Van Dijk on the open road at Anfield until after the September international break.
Liverpool fans will be overjoyed to see him back on the pitch, regardless of where he is on the long path to recovery. Gomez is in the same boat.
Bigger nights lie ahead for both this season, but few will be as memorable as this one over the following 10 months of their individual careers.
Naby Keita has another creditable hour under his belt, and they’re all daring to hope. Again.
The offensive midfielder’s outstanding summer continues as the Guinea international approaches his fourth season with Liverpool.
Is this the year he finally takes flight, accumulating momentum and support along the way?
Every year around this time, the same question is posed.
When it comes to the Reds’ No.8, the skill has never been questioned.
That is the smallest of his worries. “The summary has come to an end.”