Hat-trick hero Benayoun has come on leaps and bounds for Liverpool
Saturday saw the third consecutive four-goal scoreline at Anfield this season. Fortunately, Liverpool reverted back to their Dr Jekyll persona after a Mr Hyde-like performance against Aston Villa a fortnight ago.
The international break served the Reds well, as was evident in the efforts of hat-trick hero Yossi Benayoun. The Israeli has really come on leaps and bounds since his cameo role in the 2-0 win over Chelsea last season. If ever there was a turning point in the 29-year-old's career, it was that game. A lot of eyebrows were raised when he arrived two years ago and was seen as a wasted buy at the time. Humble pie was well and truly dished out to the cynics on the Kop who questioned his potential. 'In Rafa we trust' has well and truly come to fruition where Benayoun is concerned. Saturday's performance proved that he can make an impact both from the bench and in a starting role. He was better known for his antics with the former but, given a starting role, he can work wonders in the latter.
However, Steven Gerrard has to take full credit for Benayoun's second for showing fantastic vision and skill to weave through the heart of Burnley's defence before laying the ball off to his team mate to slot home. The captain was forced back into the middle of the park because of an injury to Mascherano and, although he refuses to acknowledge it, Gerrard is as good in central midfield as he is playing in the hole behind Torres.
Again, it was hard to criticise players due to a good overall team effort but Albert Riera was below par and not for the first time. He showed signs of the play he demonstrated when he signed a year ago but still made careless mistakes when going forward. Hopefully he will go through a Benayoun-like transition after speaking with the manager last week about his Anfield future.
Whilst it was all smiles and backslaps on Walton Breck Road come 5pm on Saturday afternoon it was, with all due respect, only Burnley; the Premiership newcomers and the bookies' favourites to be relegation fodder come May. Wins against United and Everton will go down in infamy but, as everyone saw with Hull last season, causing a few upsets does not necessarily guarantee top-flight safety.
As an unknown quantity, Debreceni will provide a stern test in our first European tie of the season on Wednesday. Whilst the Kop will be demanding a repeat of Saturday’s scoreline, the manager may have other ideas with one eye on Saturday’s early evening encounter at Upton Park and Bill Shankly’s mantra about bringing the ‘bread and butter’ back to Anfield ringing in his ears.