Jordan Henderson shows leadership qualities for Liverpool

Liverpool 2 Burnley 0: Jordan Henderson last night emphasised that his desire to be Steven Gerrard’s heir apparent at Liverpool is not restricted to tub-thumping.

Jordan Henderson shows leadership qualities for Liverpool

He can play a bit too.

Since the turn of the year Henderson has seemingly been on a mission to prove his leadership credentials, in an effort to underline to Brendan Rodgers he is tough enough for the captain’s job when Gerrard leaves for America at the end of the season.

Henderson was involved in a tunnel bust-up with Chelsea striker Diego Costa and has been the first person on the scene whenever there was a sign of confrontation recently.

However, against Burnley he showed that his similarities to Gerrard in the hardness stakes are underpinned by similar footballing qualities.

Henderson provided the game’s two outstanding moments both of which had more than hint of the man he is seeking to take the armband off; a net-bursting half-volley and an inch-perfect pass for a team-mate’s goal.

Rodgers made one change as he recalled Daniel Sturridge after he left the striker on the bench for the 2-1 win over Manchester City last weekend, with Lazar Markovic the man to make way.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche named an unchanged team for the fourth successive match which meant Danny Ings, who has been linked with a move to Anfield, led the attack.

Liverpool almost scored in the first minute when a slick move from kick-off involving Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana carved an opening for Sturridge, who saw his bobbly effort pushed the round post by visiting goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

With confidence surging through their veins, home side played with a swagger; they slowed it down, they sped it up. Probing and prodding the Burnley backline for weaknesses, with Henderson key to dictating the pace.

Shortly before the half-hour mark the home side had their opening goal, when Philippe Coutinho’s initial shot was blocked and fell to Henderson 25 yards out and the Liverpool stand-in skipper powerfully thumped it home.

Moments later, Coutinho, curled a shot over the bar.

Two minutes before half-time Sturridge was sent clear of the Burnley defence by Coutinho, only for Heaton to narrow the angle and block his effort.

Liverpool doubled their lead early in the second half and Henderson was once again instrumental.

The 24-year-old the showed patience in a Liverpool move before, from the right flank, he produced a magnificent cross for Sturridge to head in from close range.

That Sturridge immediately pointed at Henderson in the celebration emphasised the quality of delivery.

Burnley had plenty of spirit and endeavour in the remainder of the game as they attempted to find a way back into the contest. But Liverpool’s defence was not going to be breached, as they collected their sixth clean sheet in their last eight Premier League games.

It might seem peculiar to contemplate ‘what ifs’ with Liverpool in such imperious form following their seventh victory from their last eight games.

But having taken 29 points from the last 33 available there is the unerring sense – apart from the fact Champions League football is looking more and more likely — of what might have been this season.

It’s just a crying shame that they are so far behind Chelsea that they are not in the reckoning for the title. It would have been so thrilling.

What it does emphasise, though, is that Rodgers has managed progress in spite of the adversity of their indifferent start to the campaign.

Perhaps in the life and development of this team, Rodgers needed his players to show their mettle and come through that test.

Henderson, who had his doubters following his £20m switch from Sunderland in 2011, already appears to have done that.

Liverpool (3-4-2-1): Mignolet 7; Can 7, Skrtel 7, Lovren 6; Sterling 7 (Lambert 90; 6), Henderson 8, Allen 6, Moreno 6 (Toure 73; 6); Coutinho 7, Lallana 6; Sturridge 7 (Johnson 83; 6).

Substitutes not used: Ward, Balotelli, Williams, Markovic.

Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton 6; Trippier 5, Keane 5, Shackell 6, Mee 6; Kightly 5 (Wallace 62; 6), Jones 6, Arfield 6, Boyd 6; Barnes 6 (Vokes 66; 7), Ings 7 (Jutkiewicz 90; 6)

Substitutes not used: Gilks, Duff, Reid, Ward.

Referee: Lee Mason

Attendance: 44,717.

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