Liverpool took another step towards the Premier League’s top four with a professional 2-0 victory over Burnley at Anfield on Wednesday night, and another mature showing from stand-in captain Jordan Henderson solidified this veritable stroll.
Henderson opened the scoring with a well-taken half volley, before adding an assist with the cross for Daniel Sturridge’s header.
Brendan Rodgers’ side remain in fifth in the Premier League after this round of midweek fixtures, with top-four rivals Arsenal (three points clear) and Manchester United (one point clear) both also winning on Wednesday.
But with Henderson and Co. in fine form, Liverpool can expect to continue their surge up the table in the coming weeks.
Hunting in Packs
While on form, reputation and personnel, Liverpool were round favourites for this tie, the way in which Rodgers’ side so impressively dominated Burnley across the 90 minutes will have encouraged the manager.
Liverpool are now reaching the confident, pressing peaks of last season—they can go into games knowing that, if they perform functionally and intuitively, they can dominate anyone.
Henderson, serving as captain, instigated this for Liverpool on Wednesday, with his side hunting in packs.
It wasn’t played with quite the frenetic tempo of Sunday’s 2-1 win over Manchester City, but with Burnley not as strong as the Citizens, and not as averse to taking a single point from Anfield, this would be expected.
Liverpool pinned Burnley into their own half for the majority of the game when not in possession, with many of the Clarets’ touches either coming near their own penalty area, or on the flanks.
Henderson’s understanding with midfield partner Joe Allen was crucial to this.
When one pushed high on the ball, the other would drop slightly deeper, when without the ball both would typically combine to press high with efficiency and intelligence.
In Allen, Henderson has found a kindred spirit.
Meanwhile, man-of-the-moment Philippe Coutinho continued to flex his tenacity in an inside-left role, constantly putting pressure of the Burnley back line which, while resolute, is far from accomplished on the ball.
Henderson’s Passing Range
When not pressuring Burnley into submission, Liverpool applied their typical crisp, expressive style of passing play in order to break down Sean Dyche’s side.
While Coutinho shone in this department too, Henderson was central to everything for Liverpool, and his remarkable passing range and authority in possession spurred his side on.
Always available, prolific in recycling possession and, crucially, accurate more often than not, Henderson’s passing play made him the hub of Liverpool’s success at Anfield on Wednesday.
This was most perfectly evidenced with his sumptuous curled assist for Sturridge’s point-clincher.
Whether lofting them long to split the Burnley defence, or dictating the tempo with some fast one-touch movement, Henderson’s passing was a joy to behold.
Burnley striker Danny Ings, relentlessly linked with a move to Liverpool and struggling at his potential future home, would no doubt have flourished with this level of service—something that isn’t quite in David Jones’ locker.
Steven Gerrard’s Return
As was no-doubt reverberated through the Anfield stands, Henderson’s passing range was reminiscent of the man he is currently standing in for as captain.
Steven Gerrard watched on from the stands, and will be encouraged by the level of performance his side have risen to in recent months—none least Henderson, who is proving an increasingly vital cog in a hard-working midfield.
As well as his passing, Henderson’s well-struck opener bore more than a shade of Gerrard’s many half-volleyed scorchers from the past.
Gerrard will likely return to Liverpool’s matchday squad for the Reds’ next test, at home to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.
BR on Hendo: He’s becoming one of the real leaders of this young team. Wonderful performance from him and the team in general.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) March 4, 2015
Henderson’s rapid maturation as Rodgers’ stand-in captain perhaps serves as the most pertinent reason for Gerrard to remain on the bench as he reaches fitness once more, as his display in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Burnley most perfectly outlined.
The king has, seemingly, been usurped; long live Jordan Henderson.
Statistics via WhoScored.
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