Ancelotti insists criticism of Pickford over ‘mistimed’ Van Dijk challenge is ‘too much’

Carlo Ancelotti has defended Jordan Pickford over his ‘mistimed’ challenge on Virgil van Dijk and insists recent criticism of the Everton goalkeeper is ‘too much’.

Van Dijk has been ruled out for a significant period after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury during last weekend’s Merseyside Derby, the Liverpool defender subjected to a reckless challenge from the England number one at Goodison Park.

Pickford’s tackle went unpunished, but the goalkeeper has continued to come under fierce criticism in the aftermath of the incident, with Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum condemning the challenge as ‘completely stupid’.

Ahead of this weekend’s trip to Southampton, Ancelotti has moved to defend his player and emphasised there was no malicious intent on Pickford’s behalf, revealing the 26-year-old is ‘really disappointed’ to see Van Dijk sidelined through injury.

“To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk,” the Everton boss told the media at his pre-match press conference. “Every one of us hopes he can recover soon and well.

“There was this contact with Jordan Pickford: it was mistimed contact. But the fact the Premier League is so fast, it is not so difficult to arrive a little bit later.

“Jordan arrived a little bit later but his intention was to try to reach the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk.

“To say it was premeditated, and this and that, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this.

“Jordan is really sad, really disappointed [that Van Dijk is injured].

“It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football it can happen.”

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