YOSSI TREBLE SECURES EMPHATIC WIN
Yossi Benayoun fired a hat-trick as Liverpool beat newly-promoted Burnley 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday afternoon.
The unstoppable Israeli opened the scoring in the first half before Dirk Kuyt hit our second before the break. Benayoun then struck twice in the second half in front of freed Kopite Michael Shields, attending his first game since Istanbul.
The English summer returned for a late reprieve this week, and the sunshine seemed to bring the best out of Rafa Benitez's title hopefuls. With Javier Mascherano rested after playing 90 minutes for Argentina in South America, Steven Gerrard was asked to drop back alongside Lucas. Instead Benayoun hogged the limelight, with license to roam behind Fernando Torres. It was fellow goalscorer Kuyt who threatened first on seven minutes, attempting to nestle the ball into the bottle corner from 20 yards. The Dutchman saw his shot comfortably saved by Brian Jensen. Next Torres swung his right foot from similar range. This time the ball curled narrowly past the post into the arms of an Anfield Roader. Up stepped Martin Skrtel moments later with a thunderbolt from 35 yards that almost shattered the electronic hoardings.
Well-drilled and determined, Owen Coyle's men were restricting their hosts to long-range efforts until finally a clear sight at goal for Benayoun on 23 minutes. The Israeli captain surged into the box to meet Emiliano Insua's left-footed cross but nodded just wide.
Burnley had been warned. Four minutes later Benayoun picked up possession on the edge of the area, weaved past Burnley skipper Graham Alexander and finished neatly beyond Jensen. With their nerves settled, Liverpool set about finding a second, and it was almost instantaneous as Benayoun saw his diving header from Albert Riera's cross parried. Kuyt was denied from the rebound. Riera then sighed in frustration as his sweetly-struck drive inched wide. The advantage was finally doubled on 41 minutes and Benayoun was again the architect, finding a yard to shoot from distance. Jensen blocked but couldn't gather and Kuyt was on hand to tap in his second of the campaign. It would have been three before half-time had Jensen not produced a superb save to deny Gerrard's 20-yard twister. Pepe Reina was a spectator for most of the first period but was finally tested on the stroke of half-time when Insua backed off Martin Paterson, allowing Burnley's No.10 to fire towards the top corner.
The second-half began with a penalty shout following a trip by Wade Elliott on Gerrard, though the sight of our No.8's boot strewn two feet outside the box vindicated referee Lee Mason's decision to award a free-kick. Gerrard tapped it to Riera, whose fierce effort was blocked. Torres for his part hadn't had much of a sniff, though the Kop net looked set to ripple after he latched onto Kuyt's ball only to be thwarted by a fine tackle from Tyrone Mears. The striker was involved in the third, though, finding the run of Gerrard on 61 minutes. The captain burst into the box, rode an ill-timed challenge and squared for Benayoun to sidefoot into a gaping net. A fine team goal. With the points secure, Benitez took the opportunity to give Philipp Degen his league debut 14 months into his Anfield stay.
This was Benayoun's day, however. The No.15 was denied a hat-trick by the offside flag after pouncing on another Jensen parry but his time would come. First, though, Gerrard almost added his name to the scoresheet on 74 minutes after a mixture of shambolic defending and sheer persistence brought him one-on-one with Jensen. Rounding the goalkeeper was no problem but by now the angle was tight and the England man saw his effort bounce off the post to safety. Benayoun sealed his treble on 81 minutes after more neat passing from the hosts, substitute Andriy Voronin providing the killer ball which the Israeli converted while Burnley looked to the linesman. Gerrard had a late shot saved and Voronin dinked wide but the scoreline was emphatic enough.
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson, Riera, Gerrard (captain), Leiva, Benayoun, Torres, Kuyt. Subs - Spearing, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Dossena, Voronin, Degen, Cavalieri
Burnley: Jensen, Jordan, Carlisle, Bikey, Mears, McCann, Alexander (captain), Fletcher, Elliott, Paterson, Blake. Subs - Penny, Guerro, Nugent, Eagles, Thompson, McDonald, Gudjonsson
Referee: Lee Mason
Liverpoolfc.tv Man-of-the-Match: Yossi Benayoun