Having recovered from a groin injury picked up against Manchester United, Connolly, 19, returned to lead the line against the table-topping Reds and played 76 minutes as the Seagulls put on a superb display in going down 2-1 at Anfield.
The Republic of Ireland international has now made 10 Premier League appearances for Graham Potter’s side in 2019-2020, with two goals to his name as the south-coast club sit in 15th spot in the standings on 14 points.
The Galway-born ace looks set for a stellar career in the top flight, with most of it still ahead of him, and he confessed it was a whole new ball game coming up against a defender of Van Dijk’s quality.
“I thought I was in and then he comes back and he’s toed it back to his keeper and I’m just thinking sometimes you have to appreciate you are playing against the best defender in the world,” he told the Brighton & Hove Independent.
The Netherlands stopper also excelled at the other end of the pitch, netting both of the Liverpool goals as Jurgen Klopp’s side opened up an 11-point lead at the top of the table before Leicester reduced it back to eight on Sunday.
Top-flight survival is Brighton’s aim and if the weekend’s performance is anything to go by, they should have little trouble achieving their objective.
Scoring goals has been an issue for the Amex Stadium outfit and Conolly’s form over the remainder of the campaign will be key, with a trip to the Emirates Stadium on Thursday to take on Arsenal next on the agenda.
And the youngster feels his game will have progressed from the weekend’s experience as “to play against someone like that at 19 can only help”.