Nathaniel Phillips denied first Premier League clean sheet despite outstanding display at the Amex

Nat Phillips stepped up once again for the Reds but his defensive efforts were thwarted by a controversial VAR decision. SCOTT MASON analyses his performance.

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It was two points dropped for Liverpool on Saturday, as Brighton and Hove Albion converted a late penalty to cancel out Diogo Jota’s 60th minute strike. 

The opening quarter of the game proved extremely difficult for the Red’s, as Seagulls forward Aaron Connolly announced himself as a major threat against the back like of Fabinho and Nat Phillips. 

The Irishman was enjoying the space in behind the Liverpool defence, with the 20-year-old having the pace over the Brazilian and the Englishman. Early in the game, he found himself one on one with Alisson after breezing past the pair, but he was unable to convert as his effort drifted wide. 

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As the game progressed so did the Premier League champions ability to negate Connolly’s runs in behind. After the shaky start, Phillips in particular became more composed and, on just his second league start, once again proved he has the ability to play in the top flight of English football. 

Across the 90 minutes, the 23-year-old dominated his aerial battles winning eight out of eleven – the most in the game. He also finished with a 100 pc tackle win rate, winning all four attempted tackles as well as intercepting the ball twice. 

The academy graduate is certainly not the type of defender you would associate with a Klopp side. The German normally likes his defenders to manoeuvre the ball across the backline and make the long searching balls over the top when required. Instead, Phillips is a no-nonsense style defender who has characteristics similar to defenders of a bygone era. This was proved, in particular, by his three clearances – the most by any LFC player. 

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Unfortunately, for the Bristol born defender, he was denied his first league clean sheet when the hosts equalized from the spot late on. However, the penalty does not take away from the stellar performance that he provided on Saturday afternoon. 

In the current injury crisis facing the club, Jürgen Klopp finds himself with only one fit senior centre back in Joel Matip. Phillips has now rose to the occasion in two separate league matches and is sure to play an important role in the upcoming December fixture list. 

Come the January window, Klopp is likely to scan the transfer market for another central defender. If the club’s efforts are unsuccessful, it will certainly not be an ideal situation. However, there will be some comfort for Red’s fans, as they now know that Phillips is capable of putting in a shift against Premier League opposition. 

Until then, the No.47 is sure to make more appearances for the Anfield club as the games come thick and fast throughout the festive period.


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