Rhys Williams Liverpool 2020-21Getty

'I would have been nervous!' - Klopp praises 'exceptional' Williams as Liverpool shut out Atalanta

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has heaped praise upon defender Rhys Williams for his performance in their 5-0 Champions League win over Atalanta, admitting he would have been "nervous like hell" in the teenager's position.

In the continued absence of Virgil van Dijk, Williams started at centre-back alongside Joe Gomez and barely put a foot wrong as the Reds frontline was allowed to run riot with Diogo Jota netting a hat-trick

Atalanta had scored six goals in their previous two Champions League fixtures but failed to find a way past Liverpool, who were also bolstered by a strong performance from Alisson in goal. 

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Klopp singled out Williams, however, as he saluted the 19-year-old's calmness and praised his entire defence for stepping up in the absence of their star centre-back.  

“We can start with Rhys – exceptional. I cannot imagine being 19 years old and playing my second professional football game in the Champions League against [Atalanta striker Duvan] Zapata, it’s incredible! I would have been nervous like hell, but the boy was not," Klopp said post-match. 

“Defending is obviously a common thing, and how the team defended tonight was absolutely incredible. When you leave the last line alone, which we did from time to time, we won the challenges anyway.

"We had to change because Virg is not there anymore, so we share the responsibility. We put it on 10 shoulders instead of one, and tonight it was incredibly good what the last line did, supported by all the others.

"Everybody has to step up now; Robbo [Andy Robertson], Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and Joe [Gomez], they are in charge. If Joel [Matip] plays then it is different but if it is one of the young players, then they have to demand and command that line.

"It was really nice to see. I couldn’t be more happy for Rhys. You should see him in the dressing room, you’d need something special to get the smile off his face! It’s good to see."

Last season, Williams was playing on loan for English sixth-tier side Kidderminster and has suddenly made the drastic step up to Champions League football. 

Despite the Reds back line being forced into a reshuffle this season, Klopp's side are yet to concede from their first three Champions League matches and have let in just one goal across their past three games in all competitions.