Henderson fills the Van Dijk breach
In these uncertain times, there’s one reassuring comfort for Jurgen Klopp.
Liverpool can always rely on Jordan Henderson.
Not for the first time, the skipper decided to take matters into his own hands as the Reds, behind and evidently irked by their latest VAR-induced setback, were struggling to regain their composure as the game drifted towards half-time.
Driving his team on, Henderson picked up the ball down the inside right channel and curled a trademark cross which ultimately led to Roberto Firmino’s equaliser.
In the final analysis, it was a contribution that could easily be overlooked.
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But it was a perfect example of how Henderson remains the heartbeat of this team, a true captain. No wonder Klopp calls him his “General”, leadership qualities that Liverpool will lean upon even more with Virgil van Dijk missing.
The midfielder did it midweek at Ajax, emerging from the bench to help Liverpool through to a vital win in their Champions League group opener.
And only the computer lines of David Coote prevented him from having struck a dramatic late winner at Everton last weekend.
With Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita having joined Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines, James Milner exhausted after his efforts on Wednesday and Fabinho in defence, there was little choice but for Henderson, alongside Gini Wijnaldum, to shoulder the burden in the engine room.
It’s the kind of situation in which the captain – scrapping, fighting and on the front foot – continues to revel.
Alisson assures as Gomez grows
There’s only one problem having the world’s best player in their position at your disposal.
By definition, things aren’t quite the same when they aren’t there.
So having lost Van Dijk for most likely the remainder of the season, the surprise return of Alisson Becker was a major boost to Liverpool here.
Alisson’s shoulder problem kept him out for only three games.
But it says much about the difference he makes that it felt longer, especially once Van Dijk was stricken.
The Brazilian showed no lingering effects of injury on his return, decisive when dealing with Sheffield United’s aerial threat, although he got away with one shortly after the break after dawdling in possession a bit too long with Oliver Burke closing in.
Had Adrian done that, it may well have prompted unease through the Reds defence.
Instead, Liverpool didn’t flinch, their new centre-back pairing of Joe Gomez and Fabinho overcoming a wayward first-half showing with impressively stoic resistance as the visitors cranked up the pressure in the closing quarter.
If Fabinho was the standout in Holland three days earlier, this time it was Gomez.
It will take time and effort, but theirs could be a new partnership in the making.
Brewster’s strange dream
Rhian Brewster would have long dreamt of making his full Premier League debut at Anfield.
But those golden slumbers surely didn’t imagine him in opposition to Liverpool.
Almost three-and-a-half years since being first named on the bench for a top-flight game here, Brewster was finally given a Premier League start having moved to Sheffield United for an initial £23million earlier this month.
Klopp, no doubt aware of the imminent danger, couldn’t have been any more complimentary towards the striker before the game, even regarding him as “our boy” before correcting himself.
Brewster was a popular presence at the club, whose misfortune in missing more than a year of key development was confounded by the continued impressive form of Liverpool’s other attackers.
Gomez and Fabinho, then, would have known what to expect from the 20-year-old, who only in August appeared on the brink of a breakthrough with the Reds.
It was a quiet outing for Brewster, unable to make much impression before being withdrawn on 54 minutes.
While his Premier League journey is only just beginning, Liverpool’s imperious Anfield form goes on, now just one game away from equalling the club record of 63 consecutive home league games unbeaten.