Football Features

How Jordan Henderson drove Liverpool to unprecedented levels of dominance in 2-0 win vs Sheffield Utd

By J Smith

Liverpool - Sheffield United - Feature

Published: 22:18, 2 January 2020

Liverpool’s grip on the Premier League title became a little tighter with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Thursday evening.

The Reds opened the scoring within five minutes as Mohamed Salah poked home another pinpoint Andrew Robertson delivery and the job was finished in the second half as Sadio Mane scored at the second attempt after seeing his initial effort saved by Dean Henderson.

Liverpool are now 13 points clear at the top of the table once again with this latest win, but what did we learn from the match?

1. Another one down for Salah

It took Salah less than five minutes to get on the scoresheet on Thursday, putting an end to his personal four-game goal drought and getting Liverpool off to the perfect start against Chris Wilder’s stubborn Blades.

This latest goal means the Egyptian has now scored against 22 of the 25 different Premier League opponents he’s faced since joining Liverpool, with Swansea City, Aston Villa and, of course, Manchester United the only three to have kept him out so far.

Salah has scored consistently and indiscriminately since moving to Anfield and given that Liverpool host Manchester United on January 19, now is the perfect time to get back among the goals.

2. Mane not to be upstaged

Of course, it isn’t just Salah that opposing defences have to be aware of when facing Liverpool, with any number of players in red able to put you to the sword at a moment’s notice.

Predictably, Mane added the second and defining goal as Sheffield United finally succumbed to intense Liverpool pressure, playing a wonderful one-two with Salah before firing home at the second attempt after seeing his first saved by Dean Henderson.

In doing so, he made it 25 Premier League goals at home since the start of last season — more than any other Liverpool or Premier League player during that time.

In fact, across Europe’s top five leagues, only Lionel Messi (29 at the Nou Camp) and Kylian Mbappe (27 at the Parc des Princes) have scored more goals at their home stadium than Mane since the start of last season. Not bad company to be in at all.

3. Blunt Blades

Having already taken points from the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal this season, you would be forgiven for thinking Sheffield United might have caused Liverpool a few problems on Thursday. However, that simply wasn’t the case.

Sure, Wilder’s side created the odd chance and proved incredibly difficult to break down on the night, but they lacked much of the usual tenacity and inventiveness which has won them so many plaudits this season.

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The Blades managed just three shots all night and failed to sustain any meaningful spells of possession or pressure in Liverpool’s final third — some sloppy passing certainly contributed to this, with Sheffield United completing just 75% of their passes.

Sheffield United’s defensive solidity was on full show but on Thursday, they were simply outclassed by this wonderful Liverpool side — not that there’s any shame in that.

4. Full-back duel continues

It isn’t just the likes of Salah and Mane trying to outdo each other in the stats department. As we all know, full-backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have been in fierce competition with each other in terms of providing assists since the start of last season.

On Thursday, it was Robertson’s turn to charge down the wing and lay it on a plate for Salah in the opening five minutes, getting on the end of a beautiful Virgil van Dijk pass and profiting from George Baldock’s slip to find space.

Robertson’s delivery was too good for Salah to pass up and with the Egyptian bagging, the left-back moved onto 17 Premier League assists since the start of last season. The only other player in the division with more? Alexander-Arnold (20). Keep chasing, Andy.

5. Henderson at the heart of unprecedented Liverpool dominance

There’s Alisson’s brilliance in goal, Van Dijk’s dominance in defence and that famous front three causing havoc for the opposition, but over the last 12 months, one man has proved his doubters wrong to elevate himself as a truly vital player: Jordan Henderson.

Once again on Thursday, the Liverpool captain was superb with the ball at his feet, shifting possession quickly and astutely and running up a 92% pass completion rate. In fact, only Van Dijk (132) completed more passes than Henderson’s 120, while he made no fewer than four key passes. His influence in midfield was key in Liverpool completing more passes (874) in a single Premier League game than they’ve ever done since records began.

But it isn’t just Henderson’s ability as a ball-player which sets him apart. The 29-year-old has taken on the mantle of Liverpool captain brilliantly, putting in the hard yards when those around him begin to falter and organising his teammates into an almost impenetrable unit with his constant instruction. Even when his teammates couldn’t get the job done, Henderson was there making three tackles — only James Milner made more (four).

Some suggested earlier this season that Fabinho had become Klopp’s most important player. Given the performances Henderson has produced since replacing him, what does that make the Liverpool skipper?