Liverpool defender Rhys Williams has told the club’s official website that he wants to become an ‘irreplaceable piece’ of Jurgen Klopp’s team after being handed his first Champions League start during a 5-0 win against Atalanta on Tuesday night.
Williams, 19, was partnered alongside Joe Gomez as the English defensive duo helped the Reds maintain their 100 per cent record in Europe this season as well as a third consecutive clean sheet.
The former Kidderminster Harriers loanee was forced to step into the starting XI for a third-occasion this season following recent injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Fabinho.
His previous two starts prior to Atalanta were against Lincoln City in September as well as a second-string Arsenal side in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup that same month.
Matip did return to make the bench against Atalanta although he was an unused substitute since recovering from a muscle problem sustained in the 2-2 draw with Everton last month.
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Williams was exceptional on his inaugural European starting berth and could not have asked for a tougher assignment against a free-flowing Atalanta side that had scored 98 goals in 38 Serie A matches last season.
Fortunately, his manager Jurgen Klopp has huge faith in him. He had no worries about putting the teenager straight in at the deep end.
On a couple of separate occasions, he was left one-on-one with Duván Zapata, and he stood up to the test emphatically, dispossessing him off the ball without going to ground.
In total, he made three interceptions and two tackles – as many as any other Liverpool player on the pitch.
He has had a couple of days to reflect on what must have been a dream occasion and when questioned as to whether it was the best night of his life, he replied: “Yes, so far – and hopefully there’s many more to come. It doesn’t get much better than a 5-0 away win to Atalanta, so I’m over the moon really.”
“I want to become an irreplaceable piece of this side”, Williams added.
“It’s a great team with great players. I know it’s going to be hard but I’m willing to put the effort in, keep working and hopefully keep putting in performances when I get the chance.”
What RTK has to say
The sky really is the limit for this particularly outstanding young prospect.
Williams has all the attributes to be a top defender. He is quick, strong and reads the game incredibly well for a player of his age. It is striking to see how many physical similarities he has to Van Dijk which is quite ironic given he is the Dutchman’s current replacement.
This game can hopefully be a significant turning point in the early career of a teenager, who only last season was playing his football in National League North. Williams’ performance against such a formidable opposition was certainly a statement of intent from the England under-21’s international.
There certainly will be more testing times to come, but Liverpool could not have asked any more from Williams given the circumstances.
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