Jurgen Klopp lauded Fabinho for an “outstanding” performance at centre-back in Liverpool’s 2-0 Premier League win over Chelsea on Sunday.
With Joe Gomez and Joel Matip injured, Fabinho moved into the centre of defence alongside Virgil van Dijk and produced a fine display at Stamford Bridge.
Sadio Mane’s second-half brace lifted Liverpool to a second straight win to begin the Premier League season, with the attacker earlier brought down by Andreas Christensen that led to the defender being sent off.
Klopp hailed Fabinho for his performance, although Liverpool needed a penalty save from Alisson to deny Jorginho to keep their clean sheet.
“If Sadio wouldn’t have scored two goals, I think Fab would be a proper contender for man of the match,” the Liverpool manager told a news conference.
“I loved his performance, he played outstanding. He helped us a lot with the ball and in defending as well, so yes, a proper performance.”
Fabinho made a game-high four interceptions and gained possession 12 times, while completing 86 of his 89 passes.
In a further boost for Liverpool, Thiago Alcantara made his debut, replacing Jordan Henderson at half-time.
But Mane starred with his brace and Klopp said the attacker’s second goal, when he dispossessed Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, highlighter Liverpool’s hunger.
“It says everything about that and it says everything about the team as well. I love that because we have these situations quite a lot – that we chase the goalie,” he said.
“I think in the first half Sadio was really close to blocking it there already but you just have to do it. I love it when we get the rewards for these kinds of situations.
“The first goal was a nice piece of football, everybody involved pretty much. [Roberto] Firmino cross and then Sadio comes in front of his man, so it’s really difficult to defend. Good goal and gave the game the right direction. That’s exactly what we have to show all the time, that’s what we wanted to show today.
“I saw us today, I saw us playing football today and I’m completely fine with that. I loved it.”
Liverpool face Lincoln City in the EFL Cup on Thursday before hosting Arsenal in the Premier League four days later.