As recently as December, Liverpool’s defence looked its clear weak point, and if the club were to seriously contend for silverware domestically or in Europe the consensus was that a new goalkeeper and centre half duo were desperately needed.
They got one of those new pieces in with the arrival of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton. It looks now like they might not need another, and while the improved play of Loris Karius has rightly been praised, Dejan Lovren too deserves much credit.
And while Van Dijk’s leadership has clearly played a role, against City across two legs that saw the Premier League’s top attacking side held to a single goal it was Lovren who was the standout defensive performer—and half-time shouter.
“I was shouting a bit at half-time,” Lovren said following Liverpool’s come from behind 2-1 victory at The Etihad that, combined with their Anfield win, saw them oust City 5-1 on aggregate over two legs of their Champions League quarter final.
“I said to wake up because it was not good enough and I said we were sitting too deep. Klopp wanted me and Virg to be more compact and push the team up, but it was quite difficult to push up when City had the ball.
”It was all positive, there was nothing negative. We had 50 minutes to be in the semi finals of the Champions League so we needed to give more. The first 10-15 minutes wasn’t good enough.”
Liverpool, after being rocked back by City with an early goal that saw a foul on Van Dijk go uncalled in the buildup, didn’t do much better in the first half after those opening minutes, either. At halftime, though, they found their nerve.
They settled, pushed up, and showed far more confidence. Now, the semi finals await—and a realistic chance at winning Europe’s top cup competition. Because no matter who they draw, Liverpool belong to be there—and Lovren has been key to that.
“They deserve to be champions but we are in good shape now and hopefully we can go to the final and it can be a good season for us,” Lovren added. “Whoever we get will find it difficult to come to Anfield and score some goals.
“When you concede one and score five against Manchester City I think we should respect Liverpool more. People talked from the beginning about City being favourites and they were, but after this there should be more respect for Liverpool.”