Stevie H! Henderson embraces his inner-Gerrard as Liverpool hand Milan more Champions League misery

Written By Neil Jones
Jordan Henderson Liverpool AC Milan GFX
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Match statistics: Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan

Steven Gerrard would have been proud.

Jordan Henderson left the comparisons with his Liverpool predecessor behind a long time ago, to be perfectly honest, but they were unavoidable here.

A big Champions League night, elite European opposition and a raucous, expectant Anfield? That was Gerrard’s stage, and now it was Henderson’s. 

‘Stevie H’, you could call him.

Henderson’s 20-yarder, beautifully controlled and emphatically dispatched, ensured Liverpool began their Champions League campaign with a win, and ensured AC Milan had more reason to curse the men from Merseyside. 

Not quite as painful as 2005, but painful nonetheless for Stefano Pioli’s team, who had led at half-time but found themselves swept away by a side intent on giving its fans something to savour, 18 months after their last taste of European football.

How those supporters have missed this. Even the Milan fans, packed away in the Anfield Road end, applauded as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rang out prior to kick off. There really is nothing like this famous old place on a European night.

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Liverpool started as if eager to get the job done inside half an hour, and had they been a bit more clinical, they might have managed it too. 

They needed just nine minutes to strike, Trent Alexander-Arnold bursting onto Mo Salah’s pass and seeing his cross deflected in off Fikayo Tomori. 

Five minutes later the ball was on the penalty spot and Milan were staring down the barrel. Salah had not missed any of his last 17 spot-kicks, a run stretching back to October 2017, but Mike Maignan was equal to his strike in front of the Kop. It remained 1-0.

Liverpool looked rampant. They had a dozen shots in the opening half-hour and forced seven corners, attacking at will. 

They did not, however, get that all-important second, and by half-time they had been punished severely.

Ante Rebic levelled with Milan’s first shot of note, and within 108 seconds the Italians, improbably, had the lead, former Manchester City youngster Brahim Diaz finishing after Andy Robertson’s goalline clearance from Alexis Saelemaekers.

Liverpool were stunned, behind when they should have been home and dry. Half-time came at a good time, a chance to recover and refocus, ready to attack the second half.

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Attack it they did. They were level inside four minutes of the restart, Salah on target after a beautiful scooped pass from Divock Origi.

Origi was a surprise inclusion, making his first start since the end of January, but the Belgian contributed when needed. He lasted an hour before making way for Sadio Mane, and deserved his applause as he left the field.

The loudest roar was to come, though. Twenty-one minutes from time, Diogo Jota forced a corner which was swung in from the right by Alexander-Arnold. Ismael Bennacer got a head on it, but directed it only as far as Henderson, lurking on the edge of the box. The strike was sublime, and flew into Maignan’s bottom right-hand corner.

It was Henderson’s first goal in the Champions League for nearly seven years, his first in any game for nine months. It was worthy of winning any game, let alone one as enthralling as this.

"I don't get many goals, so it's nice to get on the scoresheet," Henderson told BT Sport afterwards.

Liverpool saw the game out. A key result, with Atletico Madrid and Porto drawing in the group’s other match.

They will be thankful those two minutes of slackness did not cost them, and aware of the need to make their lives easier by being more ruthless in front of goal. If they start taking their chances, nobody will stop them.

But as opening nights go, they will certainly take it. The Champions League rollercoaster is off and running again, and Liverpool are in the front seat.

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