Jordan Henderson played out of his skin last night as his late goal topped off a thrilling 3-1 victory for the Reds. It was his first since an effort against Leicester back in September 2017.
Coming on in a more advanced position, he made a true captain’s contribution in his 31 minutes on the pitch: a goal, an assist, two chances created, plus a key pass and one interception.
Hendo would have been disappointed not start, but the midfielder picked up the assist for a header that set Mo Salah off for a stunning breakaway goal to put us into the lead.
Only three players have both scored and assisted a goal in a single Premier League game as a substitute this season:
• Aaron Ramsey
• Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
• Jordan Henderson 🆕
The Liverpool man the first to do so in 2019. pic.twitter.com/CngPgz5fku
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 5, 2019
With an assist and a goal in just six minutes, the 28-year-old had more goal involvements than his past two seasons combined.
Henderson has been much-maligned by some quarters of Anfield (and further afield) since assuming the captaincy four years ago after Steven Gerrard’s departure.
Therein lies the rub of the matter – Henderson is clearly not the player Gerrard was, and he never will be. The continual, erroneous comparisons to Stevie G have done a disservice to Hendo’s Liverpool career.
I know I keep banging on about it but that is some cameo from Jordan Henderson. He’s hounded by everyone for not being Gerrard but he does a great job for the team. Can’t have a team full of game-changers. Need players like him tonight to drag us over the line. Solid player. #LFC
— Mark Jepson (@markjepson) April 5, 2019
The Geordie general has never tried to be Gerrard. Even when deputising as Liverpool’s vice-captain, back in March 2015 he told The Telegraph: “When Stevie hasn’t been there I just try to do the best I can for the team.
“It would be an absolute honour to be captain. I’d love it. At the same time we have a lot of leaders and characters in the group that could do it as well. If it was someone else, I’d be right behind them,” he humbly added.
Jordan Henderson has changed the game tonight, Aggressive and positive impact on the game, Proved why he’s so important to Liverpool 👏
— Darren Farley (@DFImpressionist) April 5, 2019
Like any good lieutenant, Henderson takes his orders from Jürgen Klopp and executes them to the letter on the pitch. Last night, they agreed to push him further up the field.
As the German said in his post-match reaction, “he’s played incredible games for us as a No.6.
“How all midfielders are, they have to offer me things and then I make the line-up. How we did it today was fantastic.
“It was his first game for a while on that position and scoring a goal is a nice sign, absolutely.”
— ScouserChris (@ScouserChris89) April 5, 2019
Not dissimilar to Gini Wijnaldum’s contrasting roles with the Reds and the Oranje, Hendo is usually tasked with shoring up the midfield and keeping things ticking over, rather than making runs into the box.
What he does, he does well – Hendo’s game is about acknowledging his own limitations and playing to his strengths. He’s never going to skin three defenders and smash it top bins, but he doesn’t have to.
Playing the right pass at the right time, passing the ball to a teammate’s preferred foot, slowing the rhythm of the game: Hendo’s real value lies in doing the simple things well and maintaining a relentless workrate.
A word, too, on Jordan Henderson. That was a captain’s half-hour and a captain’s goal. The performance improved dramatically after he came on. He’s always been able to arrive late in the box, Klopp simply asks him to do a more disciplined role 🔴
— Dominic King (@DominicKing_DM) April 5, 2019
I for one have always been a fan of the ex-Sunderland midfielder. He’s been at the club since 2011, and, despite Brendan Rodger’s attempting to ship him out a year later, he fought for his place and every manager since has stuck by him and kept him in the starting line-up.
He was a huge part of the title challenge back in 2013-14 and has captained us to three major finals under Klopp. Henderson also has a total of 48 caps as England captain putting paid to his leadership qualities at international level too.
Harry Kane has taken on the mantle now, but the Liverpool skipper’s comments in The Independent showed the humility and camaderie that every solid leader needs.
At root, Henderson is a stand-up guy even if he is not always a standout performer. He goes about his work with minimal fuss and maximum effort.
He’s our captain and we need to stick behind him, even when he’s not asked to play with the potency and dynamism that we saw against Southampton last night.