Jordan Henderson

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Champions’ (League) mentality: Reds keep winning when not at best

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Liverpool continues to scrap out wins when it isn’t at its high-flying peak.

The Reds were always in control of their 2-0 defeat of Porto on Tuesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal, despite not really putting their foot down on the gas.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Yes, there was again luck involved — a few VAR decisions went against Porto and Naby Keita‘s opener was deflected — but largely this was down to a superior team defeating an inferior opponent at home with relative comfort.

Jurgen Klopp wasn’t happy with the amount of set pieces Liverpool conceded, especially given Porto’s aptitude in that area, but overall knows his team ground out a quality win. From the BBC:

“We lost a little bit of direction in the second half, but there’s nothing to criticize, 2-0 is a very, very good result,” Klopp said. “We knew we had to play the second game and we cannot decide the tie tonight, so now we have to go there and fight again.”

Reds captain Jordan Henderson also wasn’t pleased with the second frame, but knows his men got the job done.

“We wanted to come out in the second half and score one or two more but that wasn’t to be,” he said. “We didn’t create that much and it was a bit stop-start, but overall we have to be pleased to take 2-0 over there.”

The one player who tested Alisson Becker not once but three times was Moussa Marega, who will certainly become a name we hear about in the transfer mill. Virgil Van Dijk appreciated the challenge.

“He’s strong and tough to play against. Every striker I play against at the moment is pretty good but I’m enjoying these battles. You want to enjoy these games and now all the focus will be on Chelsea.”

Salah saves Liverpool with late goal to seal comeback over Southampton (video)

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Liverpool cannot afford a slip, needing perfection down the stretch to keep pace with Manchester City and keep the title hopes alive.

The Reds were far from perfect on Friday at St. Mary’s, battered in midfield and pressed by a Jurgen Klopp clone on the opposing touchline. Ultimately, despite an imperfect performance, they earned a perfect result thanks to Mohamed Salah‘s 80th minute goal that sent Liverpool on its way to a 3-1 victory over Southampton despite falling behind inside the opening 10 minutes.

Liverpool fought back the entire match, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s press baffled the likes of Naby Keita and Fabinho. The Reds were exposed at times, but by halftime, they seemed to have sorted things out, and by the hour mark, they were in full control, having made the appropriate substitutions to expose the talent gap.

Southampton went in front just nine minutes in as Shane Long found himself wide open in front of net. A ball in from deep delivered by Ryan Bertrand found Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who managed to get himself in front of Virgil Van Dijk and flick the ball with his head. It fell perfectly behind him to Long who was waiting, and with Andrew Robertson overplaying the ball, Long was all alone to punch in the finish.

Long nearly had a second in the 18th minute, and probably should have scored, but he somehow whiffed on a cross from the left. Had he connected, he would have been all along in front of goal with just Alisson to beat yet again.

Liverpool drew level on 36 minutes as Southampton cleared two previous attempts, but on the third Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s ball from near the corner flag found Naby Keita at the back post, and he headed Liverpool back level. There was a hint of offside early in the buildup as Mohamed Salah made a run, but it was a

After the break, the Reds maintained possessional control but Southampton continued to prove dangerous on the break. Slowly as the half wore on, the visitors build themselves into the ascendency. Liverpool had a penalty shout as Keita threw himself to ground under contact by Maya Yoshida just before the hour mark, and while the defender made slight contact, the referee let play continue.

By the 67th minute, it was all Liverpool on the attack. Roberto Firimino nearly scored a Goal of the Season candidate, flicking the ball over his defender to put himself clean through, but Yoshida was on hand to make an enormous block. It took 15 more minutes, but eventually Liverpool found the all-important moment.

On the break off a Southampton corner, Salah found himself one-on-one across midfield with the lone Southampton defender back in Bertrand. Redmond also managed to get back, but the Egyptian split the two and unleashed a right-footed effort from the top of the box, putting it past Angus Gunn who appeared somewhat surprised to see Salah shoot rather than pass Firmino to his left.

The goal sent Liverpool through, and they secured the three points on yet another break as a long ball from van Dijk deep in Liverpool’s half found a breaking Firmino down the right, and the Brazilian sensed a teammate streaking down the middle. His cross found Jordan Henderson flying down the center unmarked for an easy finish to put Liverpool 3-1 up.

The win sent Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League table by two points, and while Manchester City still holds the advantage thanks to its game in hand, the pressure is back on Pep Guardiola to take care of business. Had Liverpool dropped points, the title race would have swung heavily in City’s favor owning a lead plus the game in hand.

First-leg draw “not the worst, not a dream result” for Liverpool

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If indifference — and its inherent lack of feeling — could be classified a feeling, it’s the one most Liverpool players, and manager Jurgen Klopp, would use to describe their collective mood following Tuesday’s 0-0 home draw with Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.

[ MORE: Liverpool blunted by Bayern, and vice versa, in first-leg draw ]

While the high-quality chances weren’t quite there for a meeting of two sides the magnitude of Liverpool and Bayern, the frenetic pace and end-to-end nature was still on display, which did plenty to keep a scoreless draw plenty entertaining for the neutral observers.

Speaking after the game, Klopp said it “wasn’t a dream result,” but also called it “a good one.” Wishy-washy — quotes from the BBC:

“From a result point of view, it’s OK. It’s not a dream result, but it’s a good one.”

“We made life more difficult with the last pass today – about 10 or 12 times a promising situation [fizzled out]. We can play better. We should play better.

“In the first half we had the bigger chances. I can’t remember any chances for either side in the second half. It wasn’t a Champions League night from that point of view.”

Midfielder and captain Jordan Henderson, who, it must be said, was a titan for the Reds on Tuesday, called it “not the worst result in the world.” Noncommittal.

“It’s not the worst result in the world. The performance level was good but we lacked that bit in the final third.”

“We’re disappointed not to score. But we kept a clean sheet and defended well. We had enough chances, especially in the first half.

“They’re a good team, they’re going to keep the ball. At times we found it frustrating. We were a bit unlucky in front of goal.

“It’s still alive. We’ve got games before the second leg. We’ve got to be confident still. It’ll be difficult but we have experience in the Champions League. We can go there and hurt them.”

In fairness, all of the above is true. The feeling of Liverpool having left so much on the table stems from how effervescent they were en route to reaching last season’s Champions League final. To see them struggle so early in the knockout rounds was, even after just one deep run a year ago, a bit jarring and unsettling.

[ MORE: Lyon strong at home, hold Barcelona to 0-0 draw (video) ]

Take into consideration the 10 days they had to prepare between games, and you get the feeling that Klopp and Co., know they needed to do so much more to give themselves a better chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

The second leg is set for the Allianz Arena on March 13.

Liverpool defender Gomez may require surgery

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Liverpool fans expected the return of Joe Gomez to ease their thin defensive back line, but that may be put on hold.

After Gomez fractured his leg against Burnley, Gomez was expected to be back out on the field in six weeks’ time. But two months after the injury, there is only bad news.

With the 21-year-old still not back on the field, Klopp was asked directly if his defender required surgery to fix the problem. “I don’t know,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League match against West Ham on Monday. “We will see. It is possible, probably. It is not exactly going how we want, that’s how it is. He needs more time. We will see exactly how we do it.”

While Klopp’s assessment of his defender’s health was somewhat vague, he made it clear the recovery process has not gone according to plan. “There were different moments when we thought we could do this or that. It will take time. We can not say more,” Klopp said.

The inability for Gomez to return to the pitch has presented Liverpool with yet another problem along its back line, one of many. Dejan Lovren may miss the West Ham match with a setback regarding a hamstring injury that has kept him out since early January. Trent Alexander-Arnold has missed the last two matches with a knee injury and the club confirmed he will not return to training until next week. Virgil Van Dijk has played every single minute of the Premier League season but is suspended for the next Champions League match due to yellow card accumulation.

The injuries have forced reserve defender Joel Matip into action alongside van Dijk over the last two games, and the Reds have conceded four goals to Crystal Palace and Leicester City in that span. Jordan Henderson was forced to play right-back in the 1-1 draw against Leicester City, but James Milner will be back from his yellow card suspension to take over in that role.

Henderson signs new long-term Liverpool deal

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Jordan Henderson is sticking around at Liverpool.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Liverpool skipper, 28, has signed a new long-term deal at Anfield, with the England international a mainstay in the team since he arrived from Sunderland in the summer of 2011.

Speaking about his new contract, Henderson revealed his delight at extending his stay as Jurgen Klopp‘s skipper.

“I’m very happy to have signed a new contract for a long period of time. I’m absolutely delighted,” Henderson said. “It doesn’t seem like too long ago when I signed my first one – it feels like yesterday, really – but a lot has happened since then. I feel it’s been a progressive journey for me throughout my time here and one I’ve enjoyed so much.

“There is no other place in the world I would rather play football. I want to be here for as long as I can be. I’m so privileged to have been a part of this club for so long, and hopefully even longer now.”

Henderson has improved during his seven years at Liverpool and is a regular for Gareth Southgate‘s England in central midfield.

When he signed for Liverpool he was supposed to be the replacement for Steven Gerrard but his role has developed into a more defensive one in recent years. His range of passing has always been impressive and his high levels of energy is perfect to spark Klopp’s pressing style from midfield.

Henderson doesn’t often get the praise he deserves but he does a lot of the dirty work for Liverpool and England.

Injuries have hampered his career at key times but he’s still made 283 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 24 goals.

This season could well be his toughest challenge yet to nail down a regular spot in the starting lineup with James Milner, Adam Lallana, Naby Keita, Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, when he returns from injury, as his competitors for a role in central midfield.

Henderson’s reliability in the engine room made this new deal a no brainer for Liverpool to set up.