Slowly, the haze is lifting, the wounds are healing. Liverpool’s woes are well-documented, their early season troubles endlessly picked apart. They may have been written off as title contenders from inside and out, but if their last win, against Bolton, showed their spirit, this destruction of Burnley detailed their class. Rafa Benitez’s side are not yet finished.
Owen Coyle’s underdogs started with the vim and vigour of the eager debutantes, clearly intent on making an impression on this grandest, oldest of stages.
They harried their hosts for possession, their tackles bit and, through Martin Paterson, they possessed a striker not afraid to sting Pepe Reina’s fingertips.
Liverpool, their nerves frayed after their uncertain start to the season, struggled to find a rhythm and, for 20 minutes at least, Burnley, the eternal underdogs, stood toe to toe with Benitez’s team.
After that, though, the visitors’ energy dimmed as the size of their task became clear. Kuyt called Jensen into action, forcing a smart save low to the Dane’s right, before Fernando Torres curled a 25-yard effort just over and Gerrard
Benítez knows his team are yet, truly, to impress this season, but their Xabi Alonso hangover is gradually wearing off.
Kuyt’s industry once more has purpose, the runs of Yossi Benayoun – who headed just wide from Emiliano Insua’s cross before collecting Glen Johnson’s ball, jinking past Graham Alexander and sliding the ball past Jensen to open the scoring – more direction.
That goal, a move of slick precision, seemed to remind Liverpool of the quality which, for all the criticism of their early season form, still swells their ranks.
Benayoun almost made it two a minute later, before Kuyt tapped home the second an excellent counter attack involving Torres and Insua after Jensen spilt the Israeli’s shot. The goal came from a Burnley corner.
Burnley, for all their application, never looked likely to recover, not with rediscovered confidence coursing through Liverpool’s veins.
The third, after a low-key start to the second half, was of greater quality still, Torres clipping the ball through to the onrushing Gerrard, who squared for the unmarked Benayoun at the far post.
The 28-year-old was not finished. He had one ruled out for offside before collecting Andriy Voronin’s through ball and slotting past Jensen for his second hat-trick for Liverpool.
As much as the excellence of Gerrard and Torres shone through during the Anfield club’s title challenge last season, and as influential as Xabi Alonso was, it was Benayoun’s sudden explosion in form which provided the catalyst to their challenge. Benítez will be hoping history can repeat itself.