Daniel Sturridge to continue substitute role for Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers has backed striker Daniel Sturridge to carry on "lighting up" Liverpool's team as a substitute after scoring on his return from a five-month injury absence.

Sturridge came on for the final 20 minutes of Saturday's Premier League match against West Ham, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win.

The win lifted Rodgers' side above the Hammers into seventh place, and they sit four points outside a Champions League spot.

Sturridge's absence -- the result of two thigh injuries and a calf problem -- has been keenly felt in a Liverpool side who have struggled to match the heights of last season, when they finished as Premier League runners-up.

Rodgers admits that the England striker is not yet ready to start matches after his lengthy absence, but is set to play a key role as the Reds look to enjoy a memorable second half of the season.

"He provides the light for this team," said Rodgers to the British media. "When you add a top-class player like him, you can go to another level.

"When he came on, the team looked very, very good. You've got a genuine top European talent in Daniel Sturridge. If you get him on to the field, everyone knows his pace will always frighten teams. When you put him on, you see the power he has.

"He's still a bit of time off starting. You saw when he came on he was still getting used to the surroundings again. It's just about bedding him back in."

Liverpool vice-captain Jordan Henderson echoed his manager's remarks, saying the return of Daniel Sturridge has boosted not only their goal threat but also confidence within the squad.

"It was obviously good for Dan to come on and get his goal so there were some positives,'' said Henderson.

"It gives the crowd a lift when they see such a big player coming back and he never loses his movement, even though he has been out for so long, and it was a great finish with his right foot.

"He is a huge player, he has such talent and he can change a game in a couple of seconds.

"He will keep getting better and better. It is a great boost for everyone involved the club and hopefully we will kick on and get some momentum going.''

Judging by the rousing reception he got from Anfield that feel-good factor has been scooped up by fans desperate to see some decent build-up play finally get the finishing it deserves.

While all the focus will be on what is now happening up front, some credit should be given to what has taken place at the other end.

Three successive Premier League clean sheets were achieved for the first time since the opening month of last season and Liverpool have let in just five in seven league matches since losing 3-0 at Old Trafford in mid-December.

"The last couple of months, especially over the Christmas period into January, has been a good time for us,'' added Henderson.

"We have been really strong at the back, we are pressing well and the intensity is back, the pressing is like it used to be, and that comes with confidence.

"Obviously we have done work in training to be a lot more solid and the lads have taken on what the manager has said really well and there is a lot of communication when a set-piece comes in.

"We are defending really well, which is important, and they deserve a lot of credit.

"If there is any negative it is we need to be better in front of goal, we need to be a bit more clinical.

"We have some fantastic players but we have to make sure we stay solid defensively and then you have players like Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling who can unlock defences.

"If we can carry on doing that I think we can get some good results.''