In Pictures: Liverpool 4 Burnley 0
Published 14/09/2009 | 04:47
Hat-trick one game and the substitutes' bench the next. That is the scenario facing Yossi Benayoun, yet Liverpool's reluctant substitute knows Rafa Benitez well, hence he has already accepted he may be missing when the team launch their Champions League campaign on Wednesday.
The scout from Debrecen, Liverpool's first opponents on the European stage, will have reported back to his employers about Benayoun's dazzling performance which destroyed Burnley ahead of the Hungarian champions' visit to Anfield.
Yet Benayoun may play no part. With Javier Mascherano receiving treatment for a pelvis injury he suffered on international duty with Argentina, Benitez was forced to shuffle his pack, which allowed him to promote Benayoun from the bench. However, Mascherano is expected to be available to face Debrecen, and Benayoun could find himself back in reserve.
Even if the Israel international feels aggrieved about his lack of starts this season, he certainly was not prepared to air them in public on Saturday. "Everyone wants to play all the time – I don't know anyone who is happy to sit on the bench," Benayoun said after the third hat-trick of his Anfield career. "But at Liverpool that can happen because there are so many good players. You have make sure you take the chance when you are on the pitch."
Having been a substitute against Bolton in the previous game, Benayoun grasped his opportunity against Owen Coyle's side to remind his manager of the damage he is capable of inflicting from the start.
While Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres looked tired after helping England and Spain respectively qualify for the World Cup, Benayoun inspired his side to back-to-back league wins for the first time this term.
Liverpool were going nowhere fast before he broke the deadlock with a composed finish. Yet it was Dirk Kuyt who scored the crucial second goal, shortly before half-time, which allowed Liverpool to relax.
Benayoun is no stranger to hat-tricks. His last one for the club rescued Benitez from FA Cup embarrassment against Havant & Waterlooville last year and arrived two months after he took home the match ball from Liverpool's eight-goal thrashing of Besiktas in the Champions League.
Saturday's may have been more satisfying because it allows Liverpool to make up for their stuttering start. With games against West Ham and Hull on the horizon, Benitez's team have the chance to start against Chelsea on 4 October, Liverpool's first test against the big four, on the back of a four-match winning run.
Although Burnley are accustomed to losing to Liverpool – this was their seventh successive Anfield defeat – Chelsea also put three past Burnley without reply in the previous game, which has cooled the warm glow of back-to-back victories against Manchester United and Everton.
"Everyone else will write us off after being beaten by Liverpool 4-0 and 3-0 at Chelsea – they will think we are about to go down again," Tyrone Mears, the defender, said. "But we can prove people wrong by improving and picking up points at our ground and getting a few draws and a few wins away from home.
"We are going to be OK this season. We are going to pick up some points and play good stuff. We are disappointed but the manager will be quickly building us up again and he'll have us buzzing and positive."
How positive will become clear next Saturday lunchtime when Sunderland visit Turf Moor, a match Coyle has marked down on his office calendar as a must-win match.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina; Johnson (Degen, 63), Skrtel, Carragher, Insua; Lucas, Gerrard; Benayoun, Kuyt (Voronin, 68), Riera; Torres (Ngog, 75). Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Dossena.
Burnley (4-4-2): Jensen; Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan; Fletcher, Elliott, Alexander (Gudjonsson, 74), McCann; Blake (Eagles, 58), Paterson (Nugent, 69). Substitutes not used: Penny, McDonald, Thompson, Guerrero.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).
Booked: Burnley Eagles, Jordan.
Man of the match: Benayoun.