In the build-up to the Champions League semi-final, there was one joke which was repeatedly told, “imagine the sight of Jordan Henderson lifting the Champions League trophy”. On Tuesday night, the Liverpool captain showed just why it’s a distinct possibility.
The midfielder completely dominated the experienced Italian trio of Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan, teaming up perfectly with James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum, who replaced the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to put their stomp on the game and dictate the tempo.
Sitting deep and playing balls over the top, Henderson showed what he can do as a playmaker with his impressive range of passing on show once again, completing as many passes in the final third as Sadio Mane.
Of his 54 passes, only 16 were backwards, compared to 22 forwards, and Henderson was consistently looking to move the ball forward and find a breakthrough against Roma’s high defensive line.
Defensively, Henderson was even more impressive. No player completed more ball recoveries than Henderson’s 12, so much so that the next best tally on his team was seven, almost half of what the captain contributed.
The location of his recoveries too showed his influence, playing in the holding midfield role and breaking up play before looking to rapidly start counter-attacks.
Restricting himself to an entirely central role, Henderson got the better of the likes of De Rossi and Strootman and put them on edge right from the off, causing them to be sloppy in possession and panic, which only got worse as the goals started flowing for the Reds.
In addition, he was successful in more tackles than any other Liverpool player as he made the midfield his own in arguably the highest profile fixture he has ever played in.
Many have questioned the credentials of the former Sunderland man, who is also in contention for the England captaincy, but performances like on Tuesday should soon convince any doubters that he is a key piece of Jurgen Klopp’s puzzle. Post-match, a number of fans and pundits aired their praise for his display.
Today was Jordan Henderson's best performance probably ever, leave alone in a Red shirt.
If you end up bossing De Rossi the entire game so much so that he is taken off, you know you had a good day.
— Hardik Nagar (@hardikreds17) April 24, 2018
Jordan Henderson deserved fans singing about him tonight. He’s our captain and was sheer class.
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) April 24, 2018
In other news….the lad behind me has finally conceded that I have been right all along about Jordan Henderson. Immense. And very important. #LIVROM
— James Oliver (@Jay_O_1892) April 24, 2018
The tie may only be at half-time but Jordan Henderson must show such leadership on the field of play again in Rome after his team lost their focus in the closing stages of their first leg clash.
Leading by example is pivotal to Henderson’s style and displays like his performance on Tuesday night at Anfield go a long way to justifying his role as captain of Liverpool.