Liverpool Echo report

THE champagne is likely to find a different home but Yossi Benayoun is here to stay.

The teetotal midfielder deservedly left Anfield with the man of the match bubbly on Saturday after running Burnley ragged.

Benayoun has had to battle to make the grade at Liverpool since he arrived from West Ham two years ago.

When he found himself warming the bench during the first half of last season his future at the club was in doubt.

But he responded with a string of crucial contributions, most notably a winner in the Bernabeu, and earned himself a new deal.

He is still on a mission to prove to Rafa Benitez that he is more than just a useful impact substitute.

Having been left out of the side for the trip to Bolton, this was his chance to stake a claim for a regular spot.

And he grabbed it in style with a third hat-trick for the club to sit alongside his trebles against Besiktas in the Champions League and the one against Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup.

Benayoun shrugged off fatigue after two World Cup qualifiers in Israel to demonstrate that he is an increasingly key member of Benitez's squad.

Burnley couldn't handle his nifty footwork and clever movement as he drifted inside from the right and exposed the gaping holes in the visitors' rearguard.

Ryan Babel and Albert Riera recently hit out at their lack of first team action but Benayoun has wisely kept his head down and let his boots do the talking.

Hopefully others will take note because Benayoun is a shining example to fringe players about what can be achieved through dedication and hard work.

The last time an Israeli scored a league hat-trick for Liverpool they went on to win the title.

Of course a thumping victory over Premier League new boys Burnley is hardly cause to get carried away.

But the manner of the triumph, in which Benayoun matched the feat of his compatriot Ronnie Rosenthal in 1990, offered genuine hope that the Reds are finding their feet after an unimpressive opening month of the season.

After seeing their proud unbeaten home league record stretching back nearly two years ended by Aston Villa, this was a case of normal service being resumed.

In the end the Reds settled for four but had they been more clinical they could have doubled their tally.

With an £80million shirt sponsorship deal with investment bank Standard Chartered in the bag and Michael Shields being released, it completed a good week for the club.

The presence of Shields and his family in the directors box was celebrated but while that battle has been won, the banners on the Kop signalled that others are ongoing.

George Gillett's claim that the club's finances have "never been stronger" will hardly reduce the flak flying in the Americans' direction.

This was the first league meeting between the clubs for 33 years and the first in any competition since the Clarets dumped Liverpool out of the FA Cup in January 2005.

Back then Burnley benefited from a comical Djimi Traore own goal and the fact that the Reds' starting line up also included Antonio Nunez, David Raven, Zak Whitbread, John Welsh and Darren Potter.

Two of the promoted clubs grabbed a point at Anfield last season but another costly slip up was never on the cards as Burnley's positive approach played straight into Liverpool's hands.

Owen Coyle's side are easy on the eye but they were ripped apart with ease.

Fears about a hangover from the international break were just starting to grow in the stands when Benayoun opened the scoring midway through the first half.

He raced on to Glen Johnson's pass and turned away from Graham Alexander before slotting past Brian Jensen.

There was a collective sigh of relief and with the pressure eased the Reds stepped up a gear.

Javier Mascherano's extended stay in Argentina to have treatment had forced a reshuffle with skipper Steven Gerrard dropping back to play alongside Lucas Leiva. And the skipper underlined his versatility with a virtuoso display as he relished a deeper role.

Gerrard created the Reds' third and only Jensen's heroics and the woodwork denied him the goal his performance deserved.

Lucas, asked to play the holding role in the absence of Mascherano, barely put a foot wrong.

The Brazilian frequently won back possession and provided the platform for the Reds to bomb forward.

Benayoun and Lucas were both thwarted by Jensen before the second goal finally arrived four minutes before the break.

Defence was turned into attack with ruthless efficiency after Pepe Reina had punched clear a corner.

Fernando Torres and Emiliano Insua combined to set up Benayoun and when his shot was carelessly spurned by Jensen, Dirk Kuyt pounced on the rebound.

With Burnley's resolve broken the second half was simply a case of boosting the goal difference.

Gerrard kick-started proceedings just past the hour mark when he burst into the box and unselfishly squared for Benayoun to tap home.

Such was Liverpool's dominance that Benitez brought on Philipp Degen for his first appearance since the Carling Cup debacle at Tottenham last season, and the injury-prone Swiss defender' managed to get through half an hour unscathed.

Andriy Voronin and David Ngog were also introduced as Liverpool maintained their vice-like grip on proceedings.

Benayoun looked set to be denied his hat-trick when an effort was wrongly ruled out for offside but justice was done eight minutes from time.

A clever pass from Voronin put him clear and as Burnley appealed forlornly for a flag he held his nerve to fire past Jensen.

Voronin wastefully spurned the chance to add a fifth late on but it mattered little.

After the struggle to see off Bolton this was slick and straightforward.

And after a mixed start to the season all supporters will drink to that.

LIVERPOOL: Reina, Johnson (Degen 64), Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Gerrard, Lucas, Kuyt (Voronin 69), Benayoun, Riera, Torres (Ngog 75). Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Dossena.

BURNLEY: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Alexander (Gudjonsson 75), Blake (Eagles 58), McCann, Elliott, Steven Fletcher, Paterson (Nugent 70). Subs Not Used: Penny, McDonald, Thompson, Guerrero.


REFEREE: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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