Liverpool continued their push for Champions League football next season after a 3-0 away win against Burnley. Roberto Firmino, Nat Phillips and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were on the scoresheet at Turf Moor as fans returned to the stands.
It was the Reds’ second scorer of the night, Phillips, who was voted man of the match – the Englishman produced an outstanding performance which included his first goal for the club.
The Bolton-born defender has done an excellent job since coming into the side following the season-ending injuries to Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Joël Matip. His presence has provided a much-needed aerial presence in the backline.
Usually, his aerial ability is talked about when it comes to his defensive actions, but Phillips has now used his skills to the team’s benefit on the opposite end of the pitch.
The No.47’s goal arrived in the 52nd minute after some clever play from Sadio Mané inside the box. The Senegalese picked up the ball from Andrew Robertson and dribbled to the touchline before pulling back an accurate cross to the centre-half. The defender connected with the cross and powerfully headed past Will Norris in the Burnley net.
Defensively, the 24-year-old was kept busy as the Clarets threatened the back four with long balls over the top. His display across the 90 minutes included involvement in 13 aerial duels, winning nine of those. He also won three out of four tackles to go along with his nine clearances.Embed from Getty Images
Among those clearances was a crucial goal-line block at 2-0 to preserve the clean sheet and prevent the home-side from feeling they could get something out of the game. His positioning and awareness to get back onto his line and clear after James Tarkowski looped a header over Alisson was just as important as his goal a few minutes earlier.
At the beginning of the season, Phillips had no Premier League experience under his belt. Since then, he has been thrust into an often makeshift defence – he is currently Liverpool’s most senior natural central defender, and against all odds he has played the part superbly.
It is still unknown what the future holds for the Englishman for the following season. If he is kept around Anfield, he will most likely drop to the back ranks in terms of selection. However, if the club or Phillips’ decide the next step is for him to depart from Merseyside, he would not look out of place within the defence of a bottom half Premier League side.
Next up is Crystal Palace at home with Anfield expecting to welcome back fans for the first time since late December. Up to 10,000 fans will be in the stadium as they look to become the twelfth man with the Red’s needing three points to likely secure a spot in the top four.
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