Football

Juergen Klopp, pundits hail midfielder Fabinho’s display in defence

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said he was not surprised that midfielder Fabinho slotted seamlessly as an emergency centre-back in their 1-0 Champions League Group D win over Ajax Amsterdam yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Fabinho, alongside Joe Gomez at the heart of the defence, coped with everything the Dutch side could throw at him, making a superb clearance off the line and helping Liverpool to only their third clean sheet this season.

"Was there pressure on the situation? Yes, but 100 per cent... Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it," said Klopp, who deployed the Brazilian at centre-back after injuries to Virgil van Dijk (knee) and Joel Matip (leg muscle).

"I'm not surprised he plays well, otherwise we would have thought about a different solution. I'm really pleased for him... it gave him confidence, for sure helped us."

Former Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand also praised the Brazilian, but warned him of the pressure that comes with standing in for the world-class van Dijk.

"Fabinho's been the best player when he plays there," the BT Sport pundit said.

"This guy is a top operator, he has read the game really well today... But he'll be judged on it now because he'll have a chance to play there for a sustained period.

"The problem Fabinho has, Gomez as well, is he is filling the boots of the best defender in the world and there will be pressure on both of them."

Added former Reds fullback Stephen Warnock on BBC Radio 5 Live: "Fabinho was immense. He broke things up, he stepped in at the right times when he knew there was a danger and headed everything that came into the box.

"He dealt with situations comfortably and cleared his lines."

Klopp was also pleased with his side's fighting spirit in grinding out their victory.

"It was not perfect, but they fought brilliantly," said Klopp, who, in a bid to avoid potential injury woes, substituted the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino with an hour gone at a sodden Johan Cruyff Arena.

"We did not take our chances, which was a shame, and Ajax had a big one which hit the post.

"Overall, I'm happy with the game. It was not sunshine football, but we wanted three points and we got it."

Liverpool next face Sheffield United in the English Premier League on Sunday morning (Singapore time). - REUTERS, AFP

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