Last updated on .From the section Champions League
No Virgil van Dijk, no problem?
We wouldn’t go that far but Jurgen Klopp was a relieved man to see midfielder Fabinho put in a fantastic display in defence as the Reds started life without their injured centre-half.
With Van Dijk likely to miss the majority of the season with a knee injury and Joel Matip also injured for the trip to the Netherlands, Fabinho stepped up, or dropped back, to partner Joe Gomez in the 1-0 win over Ajax.
Not only did Liverpool keep a clean sheet, Fabinho was instrumental, with a super overhead kick clearance off the line to keep the Dutch side out.
The former Monaco player was your man of the match in the BBC Sport player rater with a score of 7.00.
“Fabinho was immense in everything he did,” former Liverpool full-back Stephen Warnock told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He stepped onto the play and broke things up, he stepped in at the right times when he knew there was a danger, headed everything that came into the box.
“What I liked about it was he didn’t have the attitude of ‘I have to be Virgil van Dijk, where I pull things down and play out from the back.’
“If it needs to go it goes and he just dealt with situations comfortably and cleared his lines.”
‘He likes playing there’
“Fabinho can play the position, he likes playing it actually,” Klopp told reporters after the game.
“If I would have asked him to play right-back I don’t think he would enjoy it as much as he’s enjoying the centre-half position.
“I’m not surprised he plays well in the position otherwise we would have thought about a different solution, even when that would have been properly tricky.
“I’m really pleased for tonight, pleased for him. It was a really good performance but there’s a lot to improve on.”
‘He was the catalyst’
Considering he usually plays in midfield, it was perhaps surprising that Fabinho actually made fewer passes than Gomez in Amsterdam. But defensively he was in fine form.
The Brazilian made nine clearances, four tackles, four interceptions and one block in a strong display, with one tackle on Dusan Tadic particularly timely.
Interestingly, in the Premier League so far this season Van Dijk had averaged just 0.7 tackles, 1.9 clearances and 1.2 interceptions per 90 minutes.
“All the questions have been about Van Dijk and Alisson being out,” former Liverpool striker Michael Owen said on BT Sport.
“If Klopp could have had anything tonight it would have been a clean sheet because it dampens all that down. Fabinho’s a defensive midfielder and used to seeing things and sniffing out danger.
“I think he was the catalyst in taking the defensive line deeper.”
Fabinho’s display came as no surprise to Anfield’s other Mr. Versatile, James Milner.
“Fabinho is a top player and top players can adapt and he did that,” Milner said, after 90 minutes in midfield.
“He’s played there before and played very well. I thought it was a good team performance because it was tough out there, it was a physical battle under tricky conditions.”