Liverpool moved comfortably into the fourth round of the FA Cup without ever having to extend themselves against a Burnley side so devoid of ambition that they did not force one save out of David James.
Liverpool took just 12 minutes to break the deadlock, Steve McManaman stepping deftly over Stig-Inge Bjornebye's low centre for Stan Collymore to rifle a low 20-yard drive into the bottom corner.
Despite this early setback, Burnley were content to play out most of the match with just one man up front, rarely breaking out of their own half as they sought to contain what could otherwise have turned into a rout.
As it was, the second division side could be grateful to keeper Marlon Beresford for keeping them in with a glimmer of a chance that they never looked like capitalising on.
Liverpool's Czech forward, Patrik Berger, launched a couple of promising first-half charges into the heart of the Burnley box from the service of John Barnes. The second produced a brave block by Beresford, with the home fans screaming in vain that he had handled outside the area. Collymore curled a fine free kick around the Burnley defensive wall, but Beresford was equal to the challenge, producing a memorable save to palm the ball away. Berger's low shot from Collymore's 54th minute knock-down was creeping just inside the post until Beresford leapt to his right to tip the ball wide. Then Mark Wright surged into the attack, forcing his way through the massed defensive ranks to the by-line, where Beresford half-blocked his effort. Wright fired the loose ball towards the empty goal, but Mark Winstanley got back to clear off the line for the visitors.
Three minutes from time Liverpool could have had a second, Berger setting up substitute Mark Kennedy for a shot that flew just wide of the far post.
Then, with virtually the last kick of the afternoon, Collymore attempted a Pele-style, long-range lob that bounced just a couple of feet wide as Beresford scrambled back. But it was a rare moment of excitement in a frustrating afternoon for the spectators, who also witnessed the worrying sight of skipper Barnes limping off with what looked like hamstring injury after 66 minutes.
Burnley boss Adrian Heath tonight defended his side's negative tactics in their 1-0 FA Cup third round defeat at Liverpool, claiming it would have damaged his side's confidence if they had slumped to a heavy defeat. "I am pleased with the performance. The lads did us proud they worked really hard and stuck to the game plan," said the former Everton striker. "In a perfect world, we would have scored a goal in the last 10 minutes but it wasn't to be. The gulf between the teams and squads at Liverpool's level and ours is massive and you must be realistic. It would have been lovely to play three up front and have a go at it, but unfortunately it's not the way football is in the real world. I don't think it would have done my team's confidence any good to have come here, enjoyed the game and been beaten by six." Of his goalkeeper Marlon Beresford, Heath said: "He is a quality goalkeeper who could play Premiership football."
Liverpool boss Roy Evans singled out Patrik Berger, who came in for rested Robbie Fowler, for criticism as he bemoaned the fact Liverpool did not take more of their chances. "We should have had one or two more in the first half. It was a tough game but we made it a bit harder for ourselves. On the day, Patrik Berger could have shared one or two rather than shooting. Patrik got into situations today where a ball to the side could have got us another three goals. From our point of view, we should have put it beyond doubt. Burnley were always going to come here and make it difficult for us to play and I was pleased with the way we moved the ball about. If we had been a bit more aware of the players around us we could have scored a reasonable amount of goals." Of Burnley, Evans said: "It was their cup final and they've given it a great go. The work-rate and effort they put in was top class."
Press' Liverpool man of the match awards
The Express on Sunday : Stan Collymore.
The Sunday Mirror : Stan Collymore (9/10).
The Daily Mirror : Mark Wright (8/10).
90 Minutes : Mark Wright, Stan Collymore, Patrik Berger (all 8/10).
The Liverpool Echo : Mark Wright.
Copyright - Press Association