Dejan Lovren has hailed Liverpool’s performance - and their supporters - after their epic Champions League victory over Manchester City.
The Reds produced a night to remember at Anfield in the first leg of their quarter-final on Wednesday night, with strikes from Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane securing a remarkable 3-0 victory over Pep Guardiola’s side.
The goals all came in the opening half-hour, but Jurgen Klopp's men required an excellent defensive effort to seal the clean sheet as City probed, without success, after the break. It was Liverpool’s seventh clean sheet in their last 10 games in all competitions, and their sixth in their last seven Champions League matches.
For a side whose backline is criticised regularly, those are stellar numbers - a fact Lovren was quick to point out afterwards.
“It’s not just about scoring the goals, it is also about what we do when we don’t have the ball,” the Croatian said. “Today we defended amazingly. This is what a good team does. We are concentrated from the first second until the end.
“It’s a brilliant result. In football you can never know. You relax and in one second it causes pressure. Against Man City they have the quality to score when they want and today they didn’t. It was crucial. It was a massive clean sheet for us today, not to concede in the Champions League.”
Liverpool of course must finish the job at the Etihad in six days’ time, and they have to negotiate a Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park before that.
Lovren, though, was left to reflect on yet another memorable European night at Anfield, and paid tribute to the supporters for their role in it.
“I think it was the best atmosphere since I have been here,” he smiled. “I saw from the first minute to the last minute they didn’t sit down, I think, on their chairs! It was amazing! We couldn’t hear ourselves. It was a massive point to have them.”
Asked if the atmosphere had surpassed even the win over Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League in 2016 – when Lovren scored the winning goal in an epic 4-3 win – the centre-back was clear.
“Yes!” he said. “I can only remember now how I felt after the goal (against Dortmund) but this is different. This is the Champions League!”
Goalkeeper Loris Karius, meanwhile, believes Liverpool played to their “highest level” in seeing off the Premier League champions-elect.
The German was a virtual spectator for large parts, with City failing to register a single shot in target in the game – the first time that has happened this season.
“Not to concede was very important but then three goals; it’s probably the best result you can ask for,” Karius said. “Still, it’s not done. There is still work.”
“We played at our highest level. We’re a good football team. We defended really well. The second half they put a bit more pressure on. They had their moments, but they weren’t really clear. The fans pushed us on to get over the fatigue. They were amazing tonight and played a big part in pushing us forward so much.
“They helped a lot. Especially in moments when it gets harder, when you have to stick together. The fans, they push you on to go over that point where it hurts. On the way to the stadium when you see the fans supporting you like this you want to pay back and show them everything you can. So we did.
“There were moments when we had to stick together. We were deeper than in other moments of the game but that’s what you expect against a team like this. You can’t press for 90 minutes. There are other moments and we defended perfectly, starting from the front all the way to the back. That’s the only way you can do it.”
Liverpool’s victory, though, did come at a cost. They will assess the groin injury which forced Salah off the field early in the second half, with the Egyptian unlikely to be risked against Everton.
Captain Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, will miss the second leg of the quarter-final after picking up a late yellow card. The Reds are already without Joe Gomez, Adam Lallana and Joel Matip, and have doubts over both Emre Can and Ragnar Klavan.
Liverpool were due to hold a light training session at Melwood on Thursday before preparing fully on Friday afternoon. Klopp will surely, however, need to think about changes for the trip to Goodison, with the likes of Dominic Solanke, Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne and Danny Ings all pushing for inclusion.