Nat Phillips: Another Liverpool academy graduate steps up amid centre-back crisis

The Englishman received the plaudits as he was named man of the match in first Premier League appearance. SCOTT MASON reports on the defender’s delightful debut.

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Liverpool came from behind to snatch a late win against West Ham with the Reds coming out as 2-1 victors. Mohamed Salah’s 42nd minute penalty cancelled out Pablo Fornals’ opener with Diogo Jota’s 85th minute goal securing maximum points for his side.

With Joël Matip, Fabinho and Virgil van Dijk all ruled out through injury Jürgen Klopp opted to give 23-year-old Nathaniel Phillips his first Premier League appearance. The debutant was given the nod over Rhys Williams, who impressed midweek in the clubs Champions League match against FC Midtjylland.

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The defender who spent the last season on loan at VfB Stuttgart would partner Joe Gomez in the heart of defence for the second time in his Liverpool career – the first being an FA Cup tie against Everton in January 2020 – and was given the man of the match award by Jamie Carragher.

The Bolton-born defender was excellent across the 90 minutes against West Ham and provided an aerial presence that has been sorely missed in the absence of van Dijk. The Englishman made the most clearances throughout the match with a total of nine, six of them being headed clear. He also won five aerial duels, intercepted the ball twice and regained possession on six occasions.


The No.47 was key to preventing £45 million Hammers striker Sébastien Haller from causing the Reds any problems with the Frenchman failing to register a single shot. Haller was eventually replaced by Andriy Yarmolenko as he struggled to beat the central defender in the air.

When the season began, the last thing Phillips would have expected was a league start for the Premier League champions. It was expected that the defender to leave the club in search of regular first team football towards the end of October – he wasn’t even registered for the Champions League – but a deal wasn’t completed.

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The Reds will now be happy that the academy graduate has stayed on Merseyside due to the centre back issues they currently face.

Phillips will be unavailable for Liverpool’s midweek trip to Bergamo to face Atalanta due to his absence from the Champions League squad. However, if Matip is still unavailable for selection we could see him given his second league start against Manchester City next Sunday.

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