Brilliant Benayoun blasts Burnley
A Yossi Benayoun hat-trick allowed Liverpool to demonstrate that they have learnt lessons from last season with a 4-0 victory over Burnley at Anfield. In 2008/09 the Reds' Premier League title challenge was undermined by home draws against supposedly lesser opposition, but they had no such problems on Saturday as three goals from Benayoun sandwiched around a Dirk Kuyt strike earned the points. A victory over Stoke in August had given evidence of progression against teams who shut up shop, but defeats to Tottenham and Aston Villa also damaged credentials and gave newly-promoted Burnley hope. The Clarets started with energy, but the variety of their hosts' play soon dominated and the superb Benayoun showed excellent composure to break the deadlock in the 27th minute. Liverpool continued to control possession, with only a couple of scares from Martin Paterson, and Kuyt added a second after 41 minutes when Brian Jensen fumbled a Benayoun effort. Benayoun netted his second of the afternoon in the 61st minute with a simple finish after good work from captain Steven Gerrard, before the Israel international ensured he would be taking the match ball home in the closing stages. Rafa Benitez made two changes from the side which won at Bolton a fortnight ago, with Martin Skrtel returning to central defence in place of Greece international Sotirios Kyrgiakos. With Javier Mascherano suffering a muscle injury while on international duty with Argentina and not arriving back until late Friday, Benayoun came into the side. Tremendous impact And what a tremendous impact he made, with a goal and a display of running power that Burnley never came to terms with. The Clarets, in their first league visit to Anfield for 33 years, retained the side that lost at Chelsea last time out, with new loan signing David Nugent - a former Liverpool trainee - on the bench. The absence of Mascherano meant that Gerrard played in a much deeper role, alongside Lucas Leiva in the centre of midfield, with Benayoun and Kuyt left to play just behind Fernando Torres. Burnley started well with Paterson firing wide from the edge of the box, while Kuyt produced a low shot at the other end that produced the first of many saves by Jensen. Liverpool slowly built up possession, moving the ball quickly and Torres saw a curling 20-yard shot clear the far post. But Burnley had Steven Fletcher and Paterson interchanging positions up front and the visitors were quick and dangerous on the break. Liverpool's best early chance came when Emiliano Insua's chip was headed a foot wide by Benayoun, the beginning of a purple patch from the 29-year-old. The lively Israel captain broke the deadlock with a gem of a goal after 27 minutes. He surged from midfield, turned away from Graham Alexander and moved into the box to fire across Jensen and into the bottom corner. Assault Benayoun almost added another a minute later when he met Albert Riera's cross with a low header that Jensen blocked, the Burnley goalkeeper also keeping out Kuyt's follow-up. Jensen had to keep out drives from Benayoun and Lucas before Paterson forced his way past Gerrard to unleash a rising drive that was held by Jose Reina. But Liverpool went further ahead after 41 minutes with a dynamic five-man break from defence. Torres and Insua combined to set up Benayoun for a 20-yard shot that Jensen blocked, but only as far as Kuyt who clipped home from five yards. The increasingly busy Jensen had to produce the save of the half to keep out a Gerrard 20-yard drive before the break. Liverpool kept up their assault after the interval, with Riera seeing two efforts blocked while Jensen saved from a Kuyt flick. Stephen Jordan was booked for a block on Torres before Burnley sent on Chris Eagles to replace Robbie Blake. Torres was starting to stretch a tiring Burnley defence by now and only Tyrone Mears' fine saving tackle stopped the Spaniard in full flow. But after 61 minutes Torres' pass played in a fiercely determined Gerrard, who battered his way past two men in the box to find Benayoun on the far post for a tap-in. Liverpool sent on Swiss defender Philipp Degen for Glen Johnson and Andriy Voronin for the hard-running Kuyt, the game well won by now, and Burnley responded by giving Nugent his debut for Paterson. Benayoun had an effort ruled out for offside and Gerrard forced his way through again to hit a post, before David Ngog took over from Torres. There was still time for Benayoun to secure his hat-trick after 81 minutes. Voronin's pass sent him clear in the box - played onside by Jordan - and he side-footed the ball past an exposed Jensen. Eagles was booked for a foul on Benayoun, Jensen saved again from Gerrard and Voronin missed when clear, with Burnley just wanting it all to end.
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