How new Canaries defender's Liverpool loan unfolded
- Credit: PA
The international break has given Norwich City fans the best part of a fortnight to wait until they can potentially see loan signing Ozan Kabak in action but the defender has already started building his Premier League reputation.
After breaking through at Galatasaray at 18, a short stint at Stuttgart saw Bayern Munich and AC Milan among the clubs reported to be keen to activate his relegation release clause.
It was Schalke that paid around £13m to keep him in the Bundesliga though, before agreeing to loan him to Liverpool in January as their season imploded towards relegation, with the Reds in need of defensive reinforcement due to injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Playing predominantly as the left-sided central defender, Kabak helped get the Reds back on track before finishing third but the dethroned champions opted not to pay the reported £18m which would make the deal permanent.
Here’s how the Turkey international's time with the Merseyside giants unfolded.
PL - Leicester 3 Liverpool 1
Ten days after arriving on transfer deadline day, Kabak’s debut was a tough match away to a rival for the top four, with captain Jordan Henderson dropping back from midfield to partner him at the back.
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It proved a brutal experience, slipping in the first half and being relieved to see Jamie Vardy hit the bar, before presenting an easy opportunity for the striker to make it 2-1 as the Reds’ threw away a first-half lead, not realising that goalkeeper Alisson was charging out to make a clearance.
The keeper could take a big chunk of the blame and then a tiring Kabak wasn't able to catch Harvey Barnes as the winger was played clean through, as the Foxes made it three goals in six minutes.
CL - RB Leipzig 0 Liverpool 2
A few days later and Kabak was alongside Henderson again in central defence, for Champions League last 16 action against Red Bull Leipzig.
The hosts hit the post early on and the youngster picked up a second yellow card in two games but it proved to be a win and a clean sheet.
PL - Liverpool 0 Everton 2
The Merseyside derby continued an intense start to life in Liverpool but the challenge took on a new complexion 30 minutes into the action at Anfield, as Henderson was forced off injured.
On came academy product Nat Phillips, making his Reds debut at 23 after spending the previous season in Bundesliga Two with Kabak’s former club Stuttgart.
Everton had taken an early lead when James Rodriguez had played a clever ball behind Kabak to send Richarlison through on goal and made sure of the win with a late penalty, conceded by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
PL - Sheffield United 0 Liverpool 2
Some respite for Kabak and Phillips with a trip to the floundering Blades, already looking certain for relegation in late February, keeping a clean sheet.
PL - Liverpool 0 Chelsea 1
Another centre-back partner as the in-form Blues visited Anfield, with fit-again Brazil midfielder Fabinho coming into defence with Phillips having a minor issue.
The 21-year-old came agonisingly close to thwarting Timo Werner in the first half after Alisson had charged out of goal to try and clear a long ball played over Fabinho’s head, but he couldn’t quite save the day – only for VAR to intervene with a marginal offside.
The decisive goal came just before the break, with Mason Mount speeding past Fabinho before firing home from the edge of the box.
CL – Liverpool 2 RB Leipzig 0
The second leg against Leipzig brought the same result as the first, to earn a quarter-final against Real Madrid.
Phillips returned as Fabinho moved back into midfield and the Reds came under siege, with Alisson busy, Leipzig hitting the bar and Kabak being relieved to see Emil Forsberg fire wide after being turned in his own penalty area.
The visitors ran out of steam in a chaotic game though and Liverpool found the goals to end the resistance and make the tie safe.
PL – Wolves 0 Liverpool 1
Having missed a surprise 1-0 home defeat to Fulham with a hip issue, Kabak returned with Liverpool’s top-four hopes in jeopardy but kept a third successive clean sheet when paired with Phillips.
Reds legend Jamie Carragher was on punditry duty on Monday Night Football and said after the game: “I thought the two of them were really good.
“What they did was help each other out. Because they’re young, they will make mistakes, maybe not glaring mistakes that lead to big chances but little things that I see through my experience.
“But the great thing was, the other one was always there to help out.”
PL – Arsenal 0 Liverpool 3
It was another clean sheet for Kabak and Phillips against dangerous opposition as Liverpool really raised hopes of Champions League qualification, with the Schalke loanee replaced by youngster Rhys Williams for the final few minutes.
CL – Real Madrid 3 Liverpool 1
Next up was a tough night for Klopp’s young defensive duo, with Vinicius Junior scoring either side of Marco Asensio to take control of the tie.
Phillips was beaten for the first and Kabak was relieved to be fouled by Karim Benzema as he recovered after nodding a header into the striker’s path, as well as when a poor touch allowed Asensio to fire wide.
It was Alexander-Arnold who had made a mistake for the second and both Kabak and Phillips couldn’t react quickly enough to the slick third.
PL – Liverpool 2 Aston Villa 1
After a poor start, as Ollie Watkins proved too quick for Kabak as he squeezed his shot past Alisson, the Reds rallied but were relieved to see Villa hit the post at 1-1.
Kabak was taken off in the 89th minute as Xerdan Shaqiri was brought on as the hosts chased the game, with Alexander-Arnold firing an injury-time winner.
CL – Liverpool 0 Real Madrid 0
The Reds needed two goals and Kabak was nearly the hero in just the second minute, robbing Benzema and picking out Sadio Mane with a long pass, only for Mo Salah to fire straight at the keeper.
He did save the day in the 20th minute though, recovering after Benzema had skinned Phillips and sticking with the France star to see the shot deflect off him and onto the post.
Liverpool wasted a host of chances and the Turkey defender was taken off on the hour as attacker Diogo Jota was brought on.
PL - Leeds 1 Liverpool 1
That Champions League exit would bring the end of his time with Phillips, due to his partner having a hamstring injury, and so it was the experience of Fabinho dropping back again.
Kabak began the move which led to the Reds taking the lead, stepping out of defence to find Jota, but was at fault for the late equaliser as Diego Llorente got a run on him and powered a header home from a corner.
PL – Liverpool 1 Newcastle 1
Alisson had been kept busy and the woodwork had also rescued Liverpool, with the combination of Fabinho and Kabak again disjointed when returning to Anfield.
Having been unable to prevent Callum Wilson from bundling in, only for VAR to spot a handball from the striker, despairing dives from the defensive duo couldn’t prevent Joe Willock from scoring an equaliser in the fifth minute of added time, after Andrew Robertson had been beaten in the air.
An unexplained muscle strain would make it the loanee’s last in a Liverpool shirt.
(Premier League and Champions League)
Team conceded: 12
Clean sheets: 6
Pass success average: 87.5pc
Averages passes per game: 60
Aerial duels won: 53.5pc
Tackles per game: 2
Interceptions p/g: 1.3
Clearances p/g: 2.5
Shots blocked p/g: 0.5
Fouls conceded p/g: 1
Goals scored: 0
Yellow cards: 4
Red cards: 0