Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was delighted with the impact of substitutes Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri as the Premier League champions came from a goal down to beat West Ham 2-1 at Anfield.
The Reds trailed early on to Pablo Fornals’ 11th minute strike, but Mohamed Salah’s penalty and a late goal from Jota, supplied by Shaqiri, turned the game on its head.
There was also a Premier League debut for Nat Phillips in central defence, as he stepped up to partner Joe Gomez in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip.
It was a game Phillips will never forget, as he was named Man of the Match, and Klopp was effusive in his praise for the 23-year-old after the game. Here’s everything he had to say in his post-match press conference, quoted by Liverpool’s official website.
“Both were good, obviously. It is not difficult to bring Diogo and Shaq on in the moment because they train in an exceptional shape, so it makes absolute sense that they get their minutes.
“Yes, Diogo, is in a good moment. He is a good player and we are really happy that we could make that signing, so it is a proper win-win situation. I think we can help him and he can help us a lot. Yes, a very good night.
“It was not about doing things different, it was about doing the right things with different players, pretty much.
“That was more what it was about. Curtis Jones, for example, I don’t know how many starts he’s had, [but] he played an exceptional game tonight, not to forget how old he is. It is intense and Bobby is the one that always has to fight for us in the closest area of the pitch, so bringing in there kind of fresh players, in similar areas and especially Shaq on 10 in that case – we changed the system slightly but with the dominance we had tonight, that’s not a problem.
“Together with the runs. Mo and Sadio did exceptional runs there, so it is very important – if the two players are moving and the other two not, it is too easy to defend, so we needed these connected movements and that’s why we made the change.”
Many had tipped young Rhys Williams, who played in the Champions League midweek, to start again, but Klopp opted for Phillips, who has previous top level experience after a season-long loan at Stuttgart.
“If you know the story behind and all that stuff it makes it even more incredible. I am really pleased for him, he deserves it more than anybody.” Klopp said of Phillips.
“He is a great guy, a smart guy, knows exactly everything about himself as a footballer. He kept it really simple tonight, which was incredibly important for us. The boys supported him well and he supported the boys; he was vocal and he spoke on the pitch.
“In the challenges he was there, really aggressive but no fouls really, maybe one. It was a really good game and he deserves the [man of the match] award.”
“The basis for all what we do and did is the character of this group, that’s how it is. I cannot convince them to fight if they are not fighters, that’s not possible. And if they are not ready to put all the desire in the game and show all the determination, I cannot do that.
“I can find reasons why they should do it but I cannot convince them. So, it was always easy with this team to show them the right path and then that they follow it, but again it’s an incredibly difficult time – in the outside world, 100 per cent, and for the boys as well.