Belfast Telegraph

Henderson leaps to Gerrard defence

Jordan Henderson feels criticism of Steven Gerrard this season is totally unjustified.

The Reds captain's perceived waning influence has been highlighted as a factor in Liverpool's shaky start to the campaign.

But Brendan Rodgers' side were much more dynamic in Saturday's Merseyside derby and Gerrard's free-kick in the 65th minute appeared to have sealed victory until Phil Jagielka struck a stunning late equaliser to earn a 1-1 draw.

Gerrard has now scored nine goals in Premier League Merseyside derbies, more than any other player.

Henderson said of his 34-year-old midfield partner: "Stevie's still one of the best players in the Premier League.

"There's no doubting his quality. A lot of teams have been putting someone to man-mark him, which shows just how good he is. I don't think he deserves any criticism. He's been the best player this league's probably seen in a long time and still is."

Liverpool had 24 shots compared to Everton's 11 and Tim Howard, who got a hand to Gerrard's free-kick but could not keep it out, was certainly the busier goalkeeper.

Rodgers' team have struggled to recapture the form that almost brought them the league title last season, but the consolation from Saturday's result was certainly an improved display.

Henderson said: "It's disappointing. The performance was very good, back to the level we expect.

"The intensity was good all over the pitch, we worked hard, we were more fluent going forward and we made chances as well. And also we defended really well throughout the game so that was pleasing.

"We did quite a lot of work during the week on defending and I think we showed just how well we can defend, so that needs to be the case from now on.

"Then with the goal, there's not much you can do about that, it's a great strike."

Rodgers had hoped for a similar spark to last season, when a 4-0 victory over Everton at Anfield began a run of 37 points from a possible 39.

Instead, their bubble was well and truly burst by Jagielka's wonder strike and it was the Everton fans left singing in the stands at the end.

But Henderson is confident there will be no hangover with a busy fixture list ahead, starting with a Champions League trip to Basle on Wednesday.

"I don't think it'll affect us because the performance level was very good," said the England man.

"We've got to take the positives out of that. The goal was in the top corner so we've just got to keep going and keep playing like that. If we keep putting in performances like that we'll win more than we don't."

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