Jurgen Klopp had a lot to say about Nat Phillips after the 23-year-old’s performance against RB Leipzig. The defender had the biggest game of his career.
Jurgen Klopp took a real risk starting Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak alongside one another on Wednesday. This was a UEFA Champions League knockout game, after all.
In fact, it was bigger than that. This was a second leg – a home leg. Liverpool wanted to avoid conceding at all costs, yet this was Klopp’s defensive duo.
At least Kabak had history at the top level, though. He’d played against RB Leipzig a few times with both Schalke 04 and Stuttgart. Phillips, though, spent last season in 2. Bundesliga.
Yet here he was, starting a Champions League knockout tie. And he was fantastic.
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Phillips looked right at home, wining tackles, making clearances, and challenging in the air. He was a huge part of Liverpool’s eventual 2-0 win.
And Klopp made sure to recognise that after the game.
Klopp on Phillips
“What a boy he is, what a player he is, what a night it is for him,” he said, per Liverpoolfc.com. “That’s absolutely great. The concentration level he shows now nearly week in, week out since he’s playing for us is absolutely incredible.
“He’s doing exactly the right things in the right moment. In the air he’s a monster but you could see it today, he’s football-wise, not bad, really good.
” I couldn’t be happier for somebody than I am for Nat in this moment because it was a great game and not a lot of people get the honour to play a Champions League game.
“He has that now, he played a really good one, he won it and he’s qualified for the last eight in Europe – that’s really special. A few years ago nobody would have thought that and I’m really glad that he can experience it now.”
What RTK has to say
This was huge for Phillips, who surely earned enough trust to see out the season as a starting centre-back. And we never thought we’d say that.
But the confidence and work-rate he showed was outstanding. Phillips looked at home as a Champions League player. In fact, it appeared to suit him.
Liverpool needed a no-nonsense defensive display and Phillips was up for that. No goals conceded and they’re through – not every defender is comfortable with that.
He consistently made the right decisions in a big game, with the pressure on. Coming out of it, he must be Liverpool’s first-choice centre-back.
And that’s simply remarkable.