What a way to answer your manager. Yossi Benayoun has dazzled after coming off the substitutes' bench this season although Rafael Benitez, the Liverpool manager, remained unconvinced that the Israel international was capable of making the same impact for the full 90 minutes.
Until yesterday, that was. Benayoun showed that he has the ability to be as lethal from the start of the game as his third hat-trick in a Liverpool shirt inspired his team-mates to a second Premier League victory in a row.
"We know that Yossi is a quality player," said Benitez, who promoted Benayoun to the starting line-up because Javier Mascherano was missing with a pelvic injury. "We have seen how good he is off the bench and we were talking whether he could do the same thing from the start of the match. Today he was fantastic. He is someone who has experience. He knows that the best way to fight for a place in the team is by doing something on the pitch."
Liverpool had to overcame a sluggish start before seeing off Burnley in a manner which gave Benitez plenty of encouragement ahead of his side's opening Champions' League group game, against the Hungarian side Debrecen on Wednesday.
Burnley arrived at Anfield having beaten two of Liverpool's fiercest rivals, Manchester United and Everton, already this season, and they nearly stunned their hosts in the opening 40 seconds, Martin Paterson firing a shot narrowly wide in front of the Kop.
It took 17 minutes for Liverpool to force Brian Jensen into his first save, Dirk Kuyt stinging the fingers of the Danish goalkeeper. It said much about Burnley's dogged performance that Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were virtually anonymous before Benayoun broke the deadlock with a delightful 27th-minute finish. The former West Ham player raced past Graham Alexander, at 37 the Premier League's oldest outfield player, after cutting inside the area following a neat pass by Glen Johnson. The Israeli then fired a low shot past Jensen.
The goal woke Liverpool up, and Kuyt doubled the lead before half-time with a simple tap-in after Jensen had spilled Benayoun's 20-yard effort.
Burnley had their chances and Paterson was their most threatening player. He went close on a couple of occasions. However, Liverpool's class told in the second half and Benayoun made it 3-0 on the hour after great play by Gerrard and Torres had torn the visiting defence to shreds.
Gerrard, who was one of the main inspirations behind England's stunning victory over Croatia in midweek, really made his presence felt in the closing stages. He was unfortunate not to put his name on the scoresheet after he went round Jensen – his finish hit the outside of the post before rebounding to safety.
Liverpool confirmed their superiority nine minutes from the end of the match, when Benayoun completed his hat-trick. The result left Benitez a satisfied man. His team failed to win against two promoted teams, Hull and Stoke, at Anfield last season, results which, arguably, cost them the title. That went to Manchester United instead.
"The second goal was the key for me," said Benitez. "I was not happy with what I was seeing in the first few minutes because we didn't start very well."
Benitez's opposite number, Owen Coyle, was left to bemoan his side's defending – or the lack of it.
"We didn't lose because we passed the ball, we lost because we gave away soft goals," he said. "At 0-0 there was nothing in it and we started well. The start was the pleasing aspect. We lost the second goal when we were controlling the game."
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Benayoun
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content