Rio Ferdinand has acclaimed stand-in centre-back Fabinho after his near-flawless performance in Liverpool’s 1-0 Champions League victory over Ajax last night, while speaking to BT Sport.

Liverpool kept a clean sheet in their first game since Virgil van Dijk’s knee injury against Everton. Fabinho – usually a central midfielder – filled in at the back next to Joe Gomez after Joel Matip was also ruled out by injury.

The Brazilian made a superb acrobatic goal-line clearance from Dusan Tadic to preserve the Reds’ lead in Amsterdam.

And with Van Dijk potentially missing the rest of the season, former Manchester United defender Ferdinand believes Fabinho will need to continue stepping up in defence.

Fabinho – the ‘best player’

Ferdinand told BT Sport, as reported by the Metro: “He’s been the best player when he plays there. This guy is a top operator and he played right-back at Monaco – so he knows how to defend.

“But he’ll be judged on it now because he’ll have a chance to play there for a sustained period.

“He read the game really well. It’s about him starting to establish a relationship with Joe Gomez.

“The problem is he is filling the boots of the best defender in the world – and Gomez as well. There will be pressure on both of them.

“After the week they’ve had with injuries, it was just what the doctor ordered – three points and a clean sheet. Klopp will be going back a happy man.”

Van Dijk absence an opportunity for others

Despite the talismanic Dutchman’s long-term absence, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will have been enthused by his squad’s ability to adapt. Liverpool held firm to take three points after Nicolas Tagliafico’s first-half own goal.

Fabinho was excellent and the Reds have kept four clean sheets in the five games he has started at centre-back.

Moreover, youngsters Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams, both 19, made their Champions League debuts. They could see more Premier League action too following Van Dijk’s injury.

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