Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren believes he is a cleverer player having learned from past mistakes.
The Croatia international put in an impressive performance alongside centre-back partner Mamadou Sakho in the 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund in Germany to give his side a chance of progress in next week’s Europa League quarter-final second leg.
That was despite walking the disciplinary tightrope of knowing a booking would have ruled him out of what is likely to be a highly-charged return at Anfield.
It was arguably one of the 26-year-old’s best performances for the club since arriving in the summer of 2014, having struggled to reproduce the form he showed for Southampton prior to his £20m (24.7m) move.
During his settling-in process Lovren was prone to the odd error or miscalculation and at times he looked timid and reticent and, as a result, failed to dominate opponents.
However, having helped keep Dortmund’s attacking three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus - with 75 goals between them this season - quiet while avoiding any damaging caution showed a maturity befitting of the European occasion.
“It was difficult for me because I want to play every game but when you think about bookings you will get a booking,” he said.
“So I didn’t think about it, I just concentrated on the my game and my defensive things and it was okay.
“I will do everything for my team but I think I have learned from my mistakes, I think I am a little bit cleverer now. I am more experienced today.”
Despite Mats Hummels’ header just after half-time cancelling out Divock Origi’s opener, Liverpool’s performance at Signal Iduna Park was one of the best collectively from a defensive point of view.
It could easily have been better had Origi converted a one-on-one with goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller seconds before the interval and it is a sign of their growing confidence the team left Germany disappointed
“It is okay for us, everything is still open. They have a good team and have been playing well here but I think it will be a different game at Anfield.
“It was a great atmosphere: they had the 12th man but we will have the 12th man at Anfield - I think we will beat them in the atmosphere stakes.”
On his burgeoning partnership with Sakho, Lovren said: “After a couple of games together it is much easier to understand each other and we hope to continue like that.”
The lowpoint of Thursday night for Liverpool, who host Stoke this weekend, is the knee injury suffered by Jordan Henderson has ruled the club captain out for up to eight weeks.
Henderson underwent a scan in Liverpool following the team’s return to Merseyside yesterday to determine the extent of the injury.
While there is some positive news for the player in that it is an lateral collateral ligament (LCL) problem and not a cruciate ligament, which is far more serious, and there is limited damage, it is still likely to sideline him for six to eight weeks.
However, Henderson will not require surgery, just treatment and rehabilitation.
For his part, Mark Hughes is hoping history repeats itself this weekend when Stoke go looking for their first league win at Anfield since 1959.
That 4-3 triumph over Liverpool came on a Friday night, the day before the Grand National at Aintree.
The 2016 race is this today, with Stoke then facing the Merseyside outfit away tomorrow.
And Potters boss Hughes said: “I think the last time we won there in the league the game was moved because of the Grand National.
“So maybe that is a good omen for us!”
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