He may have scored the winning goal, but Jordan Henderson had an off night against Swansea. That isn’t a point that’s up for debate. Often sloppy in possession and, following an early yellow, invisible without it, it was not a vintage evening for the captain-in-waiting. Despite that, he deserves a great deal of credit for one thing: he never stopped running; never stopped trying.
It was that work-rate, that continuing effort even when nothing seemed to be going right for him, that eventually led to the goal that won Liverpool the match, Henderson’s pressure forcing a poor clearance that ricocheted off his shin and looped over the Swansea goalkeeper from 20 yards out. There was more than a slight hint of good fortune to it, yes, but that good fortune couldn’t have played a role without the hard work.
"In the first half, we were disappointed," said Henderson after the match, reflecting on an often disappointing evening that in part thanks to his hard work still managed to end in three points. "We came into the half and the gaffer had a few words to say—we knew we needed to go out and put in a better performance really. And I felt we did that. We passed the ball better, created a few chances, and were solid at the back."
Liverpool’s performance did improve after the break, though even then it took some time. And even when it did, it still wasn’t up to the standard they’ve often set in 2015 as the Premier League’s form side, but it got them a foothold in a match they likely had no right being in at that stage. Simon Mignolet’s goalkeeping had kept them level on the score sheet, but few would have picked them to even get a point based on their first half display.
The second half didn’t appear to start particularly brightly, either. There were more of the same sorts of mistakes, the same sloppy turnovers, and the same lack of quality chances created as in the first. The real change appeared to come when Brendan Rodgers introduced Steven Gerrard and tweaked the formation, keeping three at the back but shifting to a diamond in the middle.
"The change was important," said Henderson. "We were struggling in the first to match their intensity, their pressure, so in the second we had to change it and we were able to press better, press higher. That was a big factor. We matched them up with the diamond in the middle, which was something that caused us trouble in the first half. It’s a difficult system to come up against but we changed the tactics and got it right."