Saints had pressed and probed for long periods of the game, but after being reduced to ten men when José Fonte was sent off, the visitors took the lead through Jermain Defoe.
With just five minutes left to turn it around, van Dijk went up to join Graziano Pellè in attack and the defender’s fine finish in the last minute lifted spirits at St Mary’s.
After scoring his third Saints goal, van Dijk told youtube.com/southamptonfc
: “It’s better than losing – that’s the only positive thing. I think we deserved at least a draw today and I’m happy that we did it.
“It was a tough game. It was a game that we didn’t want to lose and to definitely win. In the end we can be disappointed that we didn’t win the game.
“Before the game we knew it was going to be tough, and I think you could see it. In the end they scored the 1-0.
“They were going to be afraid, they were going to sit with the advantage of the extra man. It was an important goal for the team and the club. I’m very happy to contribute.”
Van Dijk was quick to praise the team’s character after showing such a positive response to going a man down and a goal down late on.
“I think we have a very good team spirit. We have a lot of quality as well and we have been unlucky,” he added.
“I think against Chelsea we were a bit unlucky and again with a couple of moments today.
“Tuesday was unacceptable and we know that, but we just want to move forward from this and hopefully finish the season very strong.”