Jordan Henderson continues to make his case for long-term captaincy at Anfield
Midfielder opens scoring against Burnley as Reds continue chase for Champions League slot
Jordan Henderson opens the scoring for Liverpool during the Premier League match against Burnley at Anfield. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Liverpool 2 Burnley 0
Brendan Rodgers insists it is no foregone conclusion that Jordan Henderson will be promoted from vice to club captain when Steven Gerrard heads for Los Angeles this summer. Liverpool’s deputy, however, is compiling a strong case while the Anfield judge considers his options.
Henderson broke Burnley’s determined resistance with an emphatic 20-yard strike for the second home game in succession and, unlike against Manchester City on Sunday, not even Philippe Coutinho could eclipse the midfielder’s contribution against Sean Dyche’s men.
The 25-year-old embellished his night’s work by providing Daniel Sturridge with Liverpool’s second goal as their Champions League pursuit continued with a hard-fought but merited victory over their relegation-threatened visitors.
Liverpool’s relentless chase of a top four place now stands at 29 points from the last 33 available and while this performance never matched the heights of Sunday, it again demonstrated Henderson’s rising influence and responsibility in the absence of the injured Gerrard. It is perplexing in the extreme that the Anfield club are yet to finalise a new contract for Henderson, who has 12 months remaining on his current deal at the end of this season.
Sturridge was the only change to the Liverpool team that beat Manchester City on Sunday, replacing Lazar Markovic, and made an immediate impression by starting an exquisite one-touch move to release Raheem Sterling down the right with a back-heeled flick. Sterling, shifted wide right to compensate for Sturridge’s return, returned the pass and the striker played a one-two with Adam Lallana before forcing Tom Heaton to save well at his near post.
The Burnley goalkeeper’s intervention came after 25 seconds and marked the start of a high-tempo contest, though not a period of Liverpool dominance against Dyche’s well-organised team.
Burnley may have arrived with only one away win to their name all season but creditable draws at Chelsea and Manchester City ensured they had no inferiority complex at Anfield. In fact, they made life distinctly uncomfortable for Liverpool until Henderson’s breakthrough by employing the same high-pressing tactics that Rodgers had used to telling effect against City.
Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren, plus Liverpool’s central midfield, were given little time in possession as Burnley forced the home side deep albeit without carving an opening for Danny Ings to trouble the club that wants to take him from Turf Moor this summer. It was a measure of Liverpool’s quality that they created clear opportunities from the few forays forward they produced in the first half.
Henderson headed over from a Coutinho corner and forced Heaton into another decent save low to his left with a side-foot finish from the edge of the area. Michael Keane almost gifted Sturridge the lead with a weak header from Can’s deflected shot that was intended for his goalkeeper but landed on the toes of the Liverpool striker. Heaton was able to collect and spare his central defender but he was given no chance when Henderson struck the opener.
Coutinho was under close scrutiny all night but managed to cut inside from the left and evade two Burnley players before his shot was blocked by a third. The rebound bounced towards Liverpool’s vice-captain on the edge of the area and he sent an unstoppable half-volley swerving away from Heaton’s grasp and into the Kop goal.
Joe Allen and Coutinho went close to doubling Liverpool’s lead from distance and Sturridge had the best opportunity for a second when played clear by a deft pass from the Brazilian midfielder. His low, left-foot effort was well saved by Heaton. His opposite number, Simon Mignolet, was tested only once before the interval and dealt comfortably with Ashley Barnes’s header from Kieran Trippier’s free-kick.
The threat level from Burnley did increase but, unfortunately for Dyche, only after Sturridge had extended Liverpool’s advantage. This time Henderson turned creator, finding space in central midfield to float an inch-perfect cross over the visitors’ defence. Sturridge read the midfielder’s intentions perfectly and peeled away from his marker to steer a fine header inside Heaton’s right-hand post. It was the England international’s 10th goal in his last 11 Premier League starts at Anfield and the 17th headed goal that Burnley have conceded this season, the most in the top flight.