LIVERPOOL, March 5- Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson underlined his credentials to succeed Steven Gerrard as captain with an impressive goal-scoring performance in a 2-0 Premier League victory over Burnley on Wednesday.
Gerrard is set to leave Anfield when his contract expires at the end of the season and join Major League Soccer outfit Los Angeles Galaxy.
And Henderson, who has skippered the side in the absence of the injured Gerrard, has emerged as the strongest candidate to replace him since the turn of the year, with his leadership qualities coming to the fore.
However, it was his ability on the ball that made the difference against Burnley at Anfield as he scored one goal and created another for Daniel Sturridge.
The victory ensured Liverpool kept the pressure up on their rivals for a Champions League place and moved back into fifth place, two points behind fourth-place Manchester United.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made one change to his starting line-up, recalling Sturridge after leaving the striker on the bench for the 2-1 win over Manchester City last weekend, with Lazar Markovic making way.
His Burnley counterpart Sean Dyche named an unchanged team for the fourth successive match, which meant that striker 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 involving Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana carved out an opening for Sturridge, who saw his bobbly effort pushed around the post by visiting goalkeeper Tom Heaton.
Burnley have picked up a point away to both City and Chelsea this season and their defensive organisation was evident as they packed the midfield with bodies and set out to frustrate the hosts.
– Coutinho goes close –
It took 20 minutes for Liverpool to create another meaningful opportunity, this time when Henderson’s low shot from the edge of the penalty area was deflected behind by Heaton.
But shortly before the half-hour mark, the home side had their opening goal.
Philippe Coutinho’s initial shot was blocked and fell to Henderson 25 yards from goal, and the stand-in skipper struck a powerful half-volley into the bottom-right corner of the net.
Moments later, Coutinho, scorer of two magnificent goals in Liverpool’s past two league games against Southampton and City, curled over from a similar position to those stunning strikes.
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.
The miss did not matter as Liverpool doubled their lead early in the second half, and Henderson was once again instrumental.
The 24-year-old showed patience as Liverpool built up the play before producing a magnificent right-wing cross that enabled Sturridge to head in from close range.
Liverpool, on the back of a recent hectic schedule, took their foot of the gas and allowed Burnley to creep back into the contest, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet nervously clearing a couple of errant back-passes.
However, despite Burnley’s spirit and endeavour to find a way back into the game, the home side closed out the contest to collect the three points and notch their seventh win in their last eight matches.