Dejan Lovren
Dejan Lovren is consoled by teammates after skying a decisive penalty against Besiktas on Thursday.Getty Images

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has defended Dejan Lovren after the defender's missed penalty sent his side crashing out of the Europa League on Thursday night, insisting that the Croatian international was happy to step up and take a spot kick.

The Premier League outfit went to Istanbul for the second leg of their last 32 tie against Besiktas holding a 1-0 advantage from the first meeting but let that lead slip late on as a curled effort from Tolgay Arslan ensured that the match progressed through to extra-time.

After the two sides failed to find a winner during a tense 30-minute period, nine consecutive penalties were dispatched successfully until Lovren lashed his effort over the crossbar. His missed opportunity ended Liverpool's participation in a competition that they only slipped into after a disappointing draw against FC Basel in their final Champions League group stage fixture back in December.

Lovren, who has struggled for form and consistency since moving to Anfield from Southampton in a £20m deal last summer, was criticised for his poor attempt and some supporters even questioned if he should have been taking such a crucial penalty in the first place.

Rodgers confirmed that he had been confident, however, and also praised the nature of the 25-year-old's performance throughout a difficult evening at the Ataturk Stadium, a location that was famously the scene of one of Liverpool's greatest European triumphs a decade ago.

"Yes he was happy to take one," he was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "You saw the penalty takers that opted to take one were all confident. The four before Dejan were very good penalty-takers. We've had experience already in a cup competition this year so we were happy with the takers and Dejan was confident.

"We're obviously disappointed for him because he played very well. Someone has to miss and unfortunately it was him. But they were all happy to take one."

Despite Rodgers' characteristically positive outlook, Lovren's latest mishap is unlikely to have done anything to reassure those who feel he is now a shadow of the player who performed so admirably during his one previous season in English football.

With just 14 starts in the Premier League so far this season, the former Lyon centre-back has slipped behind the likes of Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho and even midfielder Emre Can in the pecking order as Rodgers seeks to implement a dynamic back three system.

Liverpool, who are currently sixth in the Premier League but trail fourth-placed Manchester United by just two points, have preciously little time to dwell on their first defeat in nine outings as they welcome champions Manchester City to Merseyside on Sunday.