Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said it is his “fault” Jordan Henderson has not been able to show the attacking side to his game over the past 18 months.
Captain Henderson has faced criticism during his Liverpool career but on Tuesday played a more advanced role in the Reds’ 2-0 Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Porto.
He created a series of chances and helped set up Roberto Firmino’s goal.
“Hendo is a brilliant player,” Klopp said.
“I’m really happy he can show that again.
“He likes that position so it is my fault he played for one-and-a-half years as the holding player, but we needed him there.”
Fabinho played as Liverpool’s most defensive midfielder against Porto and that allowed Henderson to play higher up the pitch.
Henderson has played 316 times for Liverpool since joining from Sunderland in 2011 and replaced club legend Steven Gerrard as captain in 2015.
He has been criticised for alleged inconsistency and a lack of creativity, while it has been suggested that he plays too many sideways passes.
Against Porto, his excellent through ball played in Trent Alexander-Arnold, who crossed to Firmino for Liverpool’s second goal.
In addition, Henderson chipped a ball to Firmino for another first-half chance and curled in an excellent cross after the break, only for Sadio Mane to be ruled narrowly offside after volleying into the net.
On Henderson’s performance, Klopp added: “The second goal was brilliant and he had the cross for Sadio’s goal as well.
“If it was an inch offside it was still a brilliant cross. Brilliant play and I liked it.”
Henderson’s advanced role
The graphic above shows how Henderson’s average position (number 14) was significantly further up the field against Porto, compared with his last start against Tottenham in the Premier League when he played at the base of Liverpool’s midfield.
Against Porto, Henderson played 43 passes in the opposition half, a significant increase on his total of 27 in the Tottenham half.
He also played three key passes, the most of any player against Porto, and had one second assist – his pass to Alexander-Arnold, who crossed to Firmino for Liverpool’s second goal.
Against Spurs, Henderson did not play any key passes or make any assists or second assists.
‘A really, really good result’
Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Anfield put them in control of the tie going into the second leg on Wednesday, 17 March.
Klopp said it was a “really, really good result”.
“We deserved the win 100%,” Klopp said. “We scored two wonderful goals, we were in a lot of really dangerous situations.
“Overall it was a really good performance. Two-nil is a really, really good result, I would probably have taken that before the game and I’ll take it now.
“Two-nil, the game is still on, we have to go there and fight. Porto will try everything to strike back and that will be a really tough game again.”