Phillips and Kabak: Unlikely centre-back partnership doing the job for Liverpool

At the beginning of the season, a settled Liverpool centre-back partnership of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak would have been unthinkable. But that’s the situation, and they’re doing a good job of it. SCOTT MASON reports.

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Liverpool narrowed the gap to fourth place with a 1-0 win over Wolves. Diogo Jota’s first-half finish against his former club put the Reds back within just five points of the Champions League places.

The Portuguese’ strike was an excellent combination between all members of the front three, with Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah both playing a part in the build-up. With all their speed and trickery, it’s easy to forget the major role defender Nat Phillips played in the move.

The Englishman has been widely praised for his ability in the air, along with his willingness to challenge in aerial battles, and his desire to win the ball in the air culminated in that goal for his side.


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The No.47 won an important header in the middle of the pitch which looped over the home side’s midfield, leaving Mané, Salah and Jota in a three-on-two situation. The No.20 finished the move to put his team ahead, a goal which would ultimately decide the game.

Phillips’ defensive work across the 90 minutes was superb. He cleared the ball six times, intercepted the ball twice and made three blocks throughout the game as Liverpool held onto a second clean sheet in a week.

Alongside the Bolton-born centre-back was his defensive partner Ozan Kabak, who was similarly impressive.

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The 20-year-old also completed six clearances at Molineux Stadium, won four aerial duels, completed two successful tackles and made three interceptions. The Turkish defender ended the game with an 88pc passing accuracy, including two successful long balls.

The centre of Jürgen Klopp’s defence has been the most unstable position with 20 different pairings used across the season, and the German now has two fit natural centre-halves at his disposal. The Schalke loanee and the academy graduate have formed an unlikely partnership at the back in the Premier League as well as the European stage.

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Stability at the back is an important aspect of a winning side and, with the Liverpool boss likely looking to use Kabak and Phillips together as often as he can for the remainder of the season, it is important the duo build a strong on-field relationship.

The early signs suggest the Turk and the Englishman are doing just that, with two consecutive clean sheets, It is vital they build upon that and continue to further strengthen their understanding on the pitch.

But it will be a while before their next big test, when Liverpool travel to London after the international break to face Arsenal on April 4.


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