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Rhys Williams hails “top defender” Nat Phillips after 1st clean sheet together

Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Southampton was only the second time Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips have started together at senior level, and they marked it with a clean sheet.

In a season dogged by injuries at the back, Williams and Phillips are two of the players to profit from unexpected runs in Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

Both have been regulars at academy level in recent years, but prior to this season had only made one first-team appearance between them, that being Phillips’ outing against Everton in the FA Cup.

After an unsuccessful first senior start alongside each other at centre-back in March’s 1-0 loss to Fulham, injury to Ozan Kabak gave the pair another opportunity to impress.

While Southampton had 12 shots on goal on Saturday night, Williams and Phillips emerged with a clean sheet, aided by an excellent display from Alisson between the sticks.

Speaking to LFCTV after the game, Williams praised the club’s fitness staff for preparing him for his first start in two months – and the “top defender” next to him.

“It gives the boys more chance to recover, and I’m glad I could step in and do a job,” he said of his return to the side.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 8, 2021: Liverpool's Rhys Williams during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“If I didn’t play, tomorrow would be on the pitch training, doing running after, so I’ve just been keeping up with my fitness with all the staff.

“They’ve helped me through it and prepared me well for the 90 minutes I’ve had to go and do.”

On Phillips, he said: “Nat’s a top defender, he’s got bags of potential and he coached me through the game for some of it. I’m really happy I could play with him.”

Williams also praised Alisson for serving as a reassuring presence behind him, with the Brazilian arguably Man of the Match at Anfield.

“You always know with Ali behind you, if you do get beaten, you’ve got a big chance of saving it because he’s such a world-class ‘keeper,” he said.

“His distribution, everything, he makes himself big in the net and does his job really well.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 8, 2021: Liverpool's Rhys Williams (R) celebrates with manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Southampton FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It could be that the 20-year-old keeps his place in the side if Kabak is not fit in time for Thursday’s trip to Man United, and if so he will be hoping to build on the clean sheet and “keep putting pressure” on Liverpool’s top-four rivals.

“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time and keep putting pressure on the teams above us, which we have done tonight,” he continued.

“We know we could get a chance and we have to capitalise, which we have done, on nights like tonight.

“Who knows [if we can get top four]? It depends what happens above us, but we can only win every game and see what happens.”

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