And his one flash of quality proved the difference as Burnley were made to pay for failing to make the most of their first-half domination as they were beaten at home for the first time since Everton won at Turf Moor five games ago in October.
The jury must still be out as to whether Rodgers’ new formation can keep propelling Liverpool forward, particularly with the personnel currently employed, as their three-man defence and wing-back system was badly exposed for long periods.
But the pace and presence of Sterling up front at least gives them a potential threat and from his one real chance of the game, the 20-year-old won it with his sixth goal of the season, running onto a flick-on from Philippe Coutinho to round goalkeeper Tom Heaton and calmly slot home from a diminishing angle 17 minutes into the second-half. It was Sterling’s first goal in the Premier League since September as Liverpool won for the first time in four league games and, according to Rodgers, further evidence of the development of his game since missing a number of similar chances and finding Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea too good at Old Trafford as Liverpool post 3-0 earlier this month.
“It just shows what a great learner he is,” said Rodgers. “Since that game he has gone away with the coaches and worked on that type of finishing. Playing in that position he will receive a lot of opportunities in that type of situation because his pace will take him away from anyone.
“I thought he showed great composure and great ability and finished it really well. His ability and willingness to learn and get better has got us those three points.”
Rodgers also praised the grit shown by his side for getting through a difficult afternoon and was adamant his side had deserved maximum points on a day when the result was the be-all and end-all after Liverpool had started the day in 10th place in the table — the lowest they had been on Christmas Day since 1992.
“The character and resilience we showed was outstanding and the quality was there when we needed it,” he added.
“They pressed us really hard and made it difficult for us, particularly in the first- half.
“In the second-half there weren’t many chances and the one clear one there was we put it away.”
The first-half certainly wasn’t pretty to watch from a Liverpool perspective and they were lucky to end it on level terms.
The combination of Mamdou Sakho and Lazar Markovic down the left-hand side of their defence looked like an accident waiting to happen. And the uncertainty in their defensive ranks wasn’t helped when goalkeeper Brad Jones had to be replaced by Simon Mignolet 15 minutes in.
Jones had just stood rooted to the spot as Danny Ings, again highly impressive in Burnley’s attack, struck the foot of the post before succumbing to a thigh injury. Mignolet had been dropped three games ago and his uncertainty, particularly with his kicking, did little to bring any stability to Liverpool’s back line.
But crucially Burnley didn’t make them pay, despite the constant threat of Ings and George Boyd as Boyd and Ashley Barnes put efforts over the top and Scott Arfield saw a volley deflected just wide via a touch of Reds’ midfielder Lucas Leiva.
“You can never guarantee what you should get from a performance but we have had our pocket pinched today with how they got away with a win,” claimed Burnley manager Sean Dyche.
“But we have had to do it and we did it at Stoke. That’s sometimes the way it is.
“It’s a marvel the strides we have made as a group. A year ago people were talking about the threat of relegation.
“Now we are playing Liverpool and dominating for long spells in the game. I thought we were excellent in the first half but the challenge is not to be excellent but to win. We have done it before and we have to do it again.”
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Heaton 6;Trippier 7, Keane 7, Shackell 7, Mee 5 (Jutkiewicz 90); Boyd 8, Marney 7, Jones 6 (Wallace 83), Arfield 6; Ings 8, Barnes 6 (Vokes 79).
LIVERPOOL (3-4-2-1): Jones 5 (Mignolet 16); Toure 5 (Can ht), Skrtel 6, Sakho 5; Henderson 6, Gerrard 6, Lucas 6, Markovic 5; Coutinho 7; Lallana 7; Sterling 8.
Referee: A Taylor 7.