Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson reveals Merseyside derby anger and looks ahead to Ajax challenge

Alex Pattle
·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has revealed his anger following last weekend’s controversy-filled Merseyside derby draw against Everton.

The Premier League champions drew 2-2 with their rivals at Goodison Park in a game that saw Reds defender Virgil van Dijk forced off just six minutes in after being injured by a reckless challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. As a result of the tackle, Van Dijk is facing ACL surgery and between six and nine months on the sidelines.

Pickford, an England team-mate of Henderson’s, was not punished during the match and faced no retrospective action due to the incident having been seen by officials at the time.

“It’s a huge loss,” Henderson said of Van Dijk. “As a player, he’s been so important for us the last couple of years. And also off the pitch, in the dressing room, he’s very influential and a great person. A massive loss, but that’s the way it is, but we need to cope as best we can.

“We have a great player and a great squad, and it’s time for everyone to step up even more and try [to] fill that gap. We have to try to do everything we can to keep going and keep the performance levels high while he’s out, and still be fighting for trophies and to be successful.”

There was further misery for Liverpool in the final moments when Henderson had a goal chalked off by VAR for offside – despite Sadio Mane appearing to be onside in the build-up.

"I wasn’t a fan of VAR before the weekend, to be honest,” Henderson said. “What I say won’t make a difference to anything, so I don’t think it’s important to ask for my opinion. Obviously I was angry after the game, I felt the decisions weren’t right and that cost us two points in a massive game, a derby game.

“Of course I’m going to be angry, but we’re not the first team this has happened to. You’ve just got to deal with it the best you can and not get too caught up in it. It doesn’t matter what I say, it’s not going to change [VAR].”

The final minutes of the game also saw new Liverpool signing Thiago pick up an injury – the severity of which is unclear as things stand – as a result of a challenge that saw Richarlison sent off for Everton.

“I’m not sure if he’ll be back for the Champions League [game against Ajax on Wednesday],” Henderson admitted. “The scan was okay, so he should be back either for the Champions League or the weekend, so that’s a positive for us.

“He’s been amazing since he’s come in. Everybody has seen how good he is as a player and he’s shown that quality – in the derby he was outstanding. He showed quality throughout, and he’s a great person and character who will have a great influence on the team.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (right) training with fellow midfielder ThiagoLiverpool FC via Getty Images
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson (right) training with fellow midfielder ThiagoLiverpool FC via Getty Images

Midfielder Henderson also said he and his team-mates are very much aware of the threat Ajax will pose on Wednesday evening in both sides’ Champions League group-stage openers.

Liverpool could have taken on the Dutch champions in the 2019 Champions League final, but Ajax were eliminated with the last kick of their semi-final second leg against Tottenham, who were beaten by Jurgen Klopp’s team in the final.

"It’s a tough game, it always is in the Champions League,” Henderson said. “We need to keep performance levels high and give everything in that 90 minutes. The focus won’t be on anything else.

“We’ve seen how good they’ve been. They’ve sold one or two players, but the philosophy is the same with a good manager and a hungry, young squad who want to make a name for themselves – particularly in the Champions League.”

In a group that also includes threatening Serie A side Atalanta and Midtjylland of Denmark, Liverpool are targeting top spot, Henderson insisted.

"I’m always confident, no matter who we play, that we’ll win. That’s Liverpool, that’s this team. We always give everything. But at the same time, we respect teams and know it’s difficult, never easy. We’re ready for the challenge and we’re hungry for more.”

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