With Liverpool’s heroics against Barcelona still fresh in the mind, captain Jordan Henderson calls on his side to make one final push for glory
INTERVIEW ANDY BRASSELL
“When you need someone to step up, he’ll set the tempo for us.” James Milner is discussing captain Jordan Henderson’s impact on this Liverpool team. That influence was telling in the semi-final decider against Barcelona, when after six minutes he burst forward to collect Sadio Mané’s pass, drove through the defence and rifled a low shot that goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen could only palm into the path of Divock Origi, who opened the scoring. Henderson didn’t break his stride. Collecting the ball from the net, he was already heading back to the halfway line to restart the game. The comeback was on. “His shot led to the first goal with his driving run into the box,” says Milner. “That started it all off.” Henderson has thrived in a more forward role in recent weeks, spurring the Reds on with his energy and commitment. And, as he looks ahead to the final, the 28-year-old has a message for his team-mates as inspiring as his leadership on the pitch.
How do you feel to be back in the final?
Not many people would have thought that at the start of the season. It means everything. For the club, for the fans, for everybody involved, but most importantly for the players. We’ve reacted again and we’ve used the experience that we had in the Champions League from last year to get to the final. Now we’re there we need to do it again, against a very good Spurs side who have done brilliantly throughout the competition and beaten some fantastic teams. They have great players and, on their day, can beat anybody. It’ll be a really tough final.
What will it mean to you to lead the team out again as captain?
It’s not about me, it’s about the team. It’s about the football club. The only thing that we want is a win and to lift that European trophy for everybody. That’s all the focus is on.
You beat Bayern in the round of 16 and the competition seemed to be opening up with the likes of Real Madrid then Juventus going out. Did that have an impact on how you viewed your chances?
The way we look at it is that we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing for a long time now. Keep working for each other, fight for each other no matter what, always have that belief we’ve shown to win games, keep going right until the very end. We’ve managed to do that so far and hopefully we can do it again in the final.
"We've got to leave everything out on the pitch. If we do that, we'll have no regrets"
What were you thinking when Messi scored that free-kick in the semi-final?
Disappointment, obviously. Frustration as well because we played really well. I felt that we deserved more, but we got beaten 3-0 so it was a tough result to take. Not many teams go to Barcelona and play like we did. I still felt that we took confidence from that game and that showed in the second leg.
Was that the feeling initially in the dressing room?
You’re emotional because you’ve just lost 3-0, especially in the way it had happened and the performance we gave. We deserved more, but we couldn’t score. We conceded three, so it’s harder to argue the fact. But we always believed that we could take confidence from the performance and use that in the second leg. I’m sure Barcelona felt how good we were as a team at the Nou Camp.
So you always thought it was possible going into the second leg?
We knew it would be difficult. When you look at the players they’ve got, they can really hurt you. Everybody needed to be 100% in a defensive mood. Then we knew that going forward we would hurt them. I know this is easy for me to say now. As a team we always believed that. If we could play the way that we know how and defend with our lives for 90 minutes then, with Anfield a pretty special place, once you get one, and then two, the game changes. We believed right from the start and you could see that in the performance, how we approached the game. The atmosphere was incredible. It was an amazing night that we’ll always remember.
Did Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner for Divock Origi’s goal come as a surprise to you too?
I was talking to someone and organising protection for the corner. I turned around and saw the ball flying into the back of the net. I didn’t really know what had happened. It was an amazing goal to score in a game of that magnitude. It was fantastic for a young player to have the awareness to be able to do that and put in the ball, and for Divock to react to that. It was a great finish – an amazing goal that summed up an amazing night.
How did it feel when that final whistle blew?
It was very emotional after the game. We left everything on the pitch and we deserved to get through to the final. I’m not sure if Barcelona would argue with that. It was amazing to have spent a little bit of that night with the fans. That belief within the crowd transmits to the players. Anfield’s a very special place when you’re in games like that.
What will you take from last year’s final going into this one?
We can use that experience, but anything could happen. It’s a really tough team we’re playing so we need to be at our very best if we want to win it. We’ve got to leave everything out on the pitch and give everything right up until the end, until that final whistle goes. If we do that, then we’ll have no regrets.