Soccer-Liverpool's Klopp hails defender Williams after Atalanta win

Nov 4 (Reuters) - Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp heaped praise on central defender Rhys Williams after the 19-year-old impressed in his first Champions League start in Tuesday’s 5-0 victory over Atalanta.

Williams was thrust into the starting lineup following injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho.

“Rhys was exceptional. I cannot imagine being 19-years-old and playing my second professional game in the Champions League against Duvan Zapata, it’s incredible,” Klopp said.

“I couldn’t be more happy for him. 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.”

Klopp said the absence of Dutch defender Van Dijk, who could miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery last month, had forced the rest of the team to share the defensive workload.

“How the team defended was absolutely incredible. We had to change because Virgil is not there any more, so we share the responsibility, we put it on 10 shoulders instead of one,” he said.

“Everybody has to step up; Andrew 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 command that line.”

Liverpool travel to Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday. (Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )