Dejan Lovren: The 12th man was the key in Villarreal win

The Borussia Dortmund quarter-final second-leg which saw Liverpool progress to the semi-final stages of the UEFA Europa League thanks to a 4-3 win on the night was arguably one of the best ever at Anfield.

The scorer of the winning goal that night, which came in in stoppage time at the end of the game, Dejan Lovren, however, believes that the one created by the fans against Villarreal on Thursday was even better than that.

Lovren spoke of the effect the supporters had on the team, referring to them as the "12th player" as he hailed the "amazing atmosphere" that inspired the Reds to a 3-0 victory at Anfield to overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first-leg.

The defender told "It was a beautiful game. I think everybody enjoyed watching the game. The atmosphere was really amazing – even better than Dortmund. It was an amazing game."

During his time at Anfield, Lovren has begun to understand the importance of the atmosphere at Anfield describing it as "tough" for "every opponent" who travels to Merseyside to come away with "anything."

Villarreal travelled to Anfield sitting fourth in La Liga after a very successful domestic campaign as well as in Europe, where they had previously been unbeaten in their last 12 games home or away.

Lovren acknowledged that he knew they were "really good defensively" and had "quality players" that Liverpool had to be aware of going into the game.

Lovren receives instructions from Reds boss Jürgen Klopp on Thursday night. (Picture: Getty Images)
Lovren receives instructions from Reds boss Jürgen Klopp on Thursday night. (Picture: Getty Images)

Due to their strong defensive record and the Spanish team’s slick counter-attacking which they have displayed this season, Liverpool didn’t "expect this result" but Lovren spoke of the "belief from the beginning" as "anything is possible at Anfield."

He contined: "We needed just to play our game and be confident in every situation [then] when we attacked we needed also to defend smartly at the same time."

Setting the tone

Lovren’s perfectly-timed sliding tackle early on, along with an early own goal, helped set the tone on the night and the Croatian put in another mighty display as he continues to improve under Jürgen Klopp and look like the £20 million player Liverpool invested in two summers ago.

The aforementioned tackle which brought a huge roar from Klopp and the crowd was a prime example of what Lovren though was an "almost perfect game" with Liverpool "on the front foot" and not giving Villarreal any room to settle as him and the rest of the defence kept their threatening attack quiet.

Adam Lallana’s goal which put Liverpool 3-0 up on the night sealed Villarreal’s fate and confirmed progression for Liverpool but Lovren is not looking towards the final just yet. He believes the team "don’t need to think of the final" but instead need to take it "day by day" with Watford next up at Anfield in the league.

"We still have a couple of games in the Premier League to play, we need to be concentrated, [take it] step by step," he said. "We need to just be calm and confident and hopefully without injuries so we can play with a full squad in the final."

A Europa League winner's medal would be a brilliant end to a huge season for Lovren in which he has come from being written off by many fans to being a key player in this Europa League run; one in which he and everybody else will be hoping ends in celebration with a win in Switzerland.