Liverpool summer signing Diogo Jota stole the headlines with a late winner in the side’s 2-0 victory over West Ham – but Jurgen Klopp and Jamie Carragher both felt Nathaniel Phillips deserved the man of the match award for his display at Anfield.
Klopp handed Phillips his Premier League debut for Saturday evening’s clash – in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho – and the 23-year-old produced an assured performance alongside Joe Gomez at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
However, the champions were a long way from their best and made hard work of it, going behind in only the 10th minute thanks to a cool finish from Hammers midfielder Pablo Fornals.
Mohamed Salah converted from the penalty spot to equalise just before half-time and West Ham looked set to come away from Merseyside with a hard-earned point before Jota kept up his impressive start to seal all three points at the death.
And while it was the Portuguese’s third goal in as many games for his new club, both Carragher and Klopp picked out Phillips as their standout player.
Asked whether he agreed with Carragher that Phillips deserved the man of the match award, Klopp told Sky Sports: ‘Yep, 100 per cent.
‘Look, Jamie was a defender himself and he knows, maybe he can remember his first game for Liverpool.
‘That’s a big thing and especially for a guy like Nat, who is exceptionally intelligent and three years ago was away to America to study in college and now he’s playing for Liverpool.
‘It’s a really nice story.’
Carragher was blown away by Phillips’ debut and was particularly impressed with the centre-half’s aerial prowess and ‘maturity’ he showed across the 90 minutes.
‘He mentioned that the manager told him to get himself ready for Saturday, so he knew he was there, there’d been talk in the press,’ the ex-Liverpool defender said.
‘But it was what he did aerially, really, and whatever you talk about Fabinho being out and Gomez being there – and that’s a worry now Fabinho is out – but what they lack is domination aerially.
‘And when you play against teams, certainly not against the top teams, but most teams in the Premier League they look for set-pieces, direct balls at times, crosses into the box, second balls.
‘And Liverpool didn’t deal with that at all against Sheffield United, that’s what caused them big problems.
‘I’ve been in that position myself where you think, “I’ve got to get my head on this. Wherever this ball is coming, I’ve got to head it” and that’s what he did.
‘He found himself at the near post [in stoppage time] and that was a vital header, and that won Liverpool the game really. If he doesn’t get that head on it, who knows what’s going to happen. West Ham are a really big team.
‘So I love the actual maturity he showed within the game. Gomez obviously wasn’t great on the header for the goal, but he was a lot better in the air than he was against Sheffield United.’