Jurgen Klopp spoke of the "really important" steps taken by Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez after their return to the Liverpool team on Thursday and welcomed the full squad integrating during their pre-season camp in Evian.
Both defenders were introduced for the final 20 minutes of the 4-3 defeat to Hertha Berlin at Austria's Tivoli Stadion.
It's the first time Van Dijk has been on a pitch since October's 2-2 draw with Everton, while Gomez was featuring eight months after he injured his knee on England duty.
Both players underwent surgery on their respective knee injuries in the autumn of 2020 and have been working as part of the near 40-man group out in Austria for the past two-and-a-half weeks.
Klopp was delighted to have both players back, hailing the progress made by their return to action for the Reds.
"It was a nice feeling, huh? A nice feeling," Klopp said of the pair.
"We started really well and usually the fourth [goal] is a situation, you saw it, that we defend well. But that is it.
"It's been 200 and 80 something days [out] for Virg and not much less for Joe that they haven't played football, so it's nice that we have that first step.
"It was really important."
He added: "It's pre-season and I prefer winning football games, obviously, but the goals we conceded tonight were for all different reasons.
"The first goal was an unnecessary free-kick, Caoimh (Kelleher) probably can come for it, stuff like this. Second goal, no challenge and then the ball inside and a worldie.
"Then we started playing the game. We were [back] in the game and playing really good football when it went to 2-2 at half time.
"That was all fine and then there were a lot of changes at half time.
"Stevan Jovetic came on and he had situations. There was a little misjudgement with the centre-backs [for the third] and then the fourth goal was a counter-attack.
"It's like it always is, but we had some good moments and really it is all fine.
"We have to get more compact in all situations and we still have stuff to do obviously."
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Next up for Liverpool is a trip to France where they will take part in a training camp in Evian before two 60-minute games with Italian side Bologna on August 5.
With Jordan Henderson, Alisson Becker, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino expected to be part of that week of training, Klopp is eager to get to work with virtually a full complement of players in France.
Klopp said: "Now we will have nearly everyone back at Evian I think and that is good.
"Then we can really start preparing, really involve them all and get them all used to each other, all this type of stuff.
"Then we have a tricky start away at Norwich, they were flying last year and they are probably still flying. So we have to be ready to fight.
"And I saw glimpses of a fight today, there is no doubt. I said before the game we are in full training all the time. I saw some good things tonight but conceding four is not an option.
"Tonight it was, so we have to take it."
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