Liverpool defeated Burnley 4-0 at Turf Moor to confirm the Lancashire club's relegation back to the Championship after only a season in the top flight. An assured second half performance from the Reds led to Gerrard (twice), Maxi and Babel scoring to keep our faint hopes alive in the battle for fourth spot.
It was an encouraging display from a Liverpool side that have disappointed on the road this season. Before this game Liverpool had only managed a measly 14 goals away from Anfield, which was less than Burnley, Wigan and Wolves had scored.
This pathetic away form has cost the Reds dear this season, with 8 of our 10 defeats coming on the road, however this victory could be a turning point that leads to a significant and vital improvement of our away form next season.
After a long trip to Spain in midweek Rafa decided to rest some weary legs, making four changes to the line-up that started in Madrid. 19 year old Daniel Ayala made only his third league appearance as he replaced the rested Kyrgiakos. Aquilani was given a rare start as he came in for Lucas, Maxi started in place of the injured Ngog and Babel was selected ahead of Benayoun.
Liverpool never really got started in the first half as they were still recovering after the long trek to Madrid and back during the week. Burnley looked threatening during the first 45 minutes however they failed to fashion any clear cut chances.
Burnley nearly took the lead midway through the first half as Flecther rose highest to head Pattison's cross just over the cross bar.
After that, Gerrard stormed into the box with purpose after playing a neat one-two with Dirk Kuyt. Gerrard reached Kuyt's flick into the penalty area and eventually shot at goal, however Brian Jensen made a comfortable save to keep the game goalless.
With half time near the home side created another aerial opportunity to score, however, once again they failed to take advantage of the opening. Mears centred the ball from the right wing into the box where Cork beat Carragher in the air and tested Reina with his firm header, however the Spanish stopper was more than equal to the task as he produced a fantastic save to deny the Burnley midfielder.
Liverpool came out for the second half looking to grasp hold of the game and gain control of the contest after Burnley had impressed during the first 45 minutes, and they did just that with two goals in the first 15 minutes of the restart leaving Brian Law's Burnley side with an uphill task.
On 52 minutes, Benayoun played a forward pass to Steven Gerrard, who then exchanged passes with Alberto Aquilani. After that, our captain ran at the Burnley defence before finding the back of the net with a well struck shot from 20 yards that deflected off Cort before beating Jensen in the Burnley goal.
It was a well worked goal by the Reds that gave us vital confidence to go on and score the goals needed to kill off the game and confirm the home side's relegation to the Championship.
7 minutes after Gerrard had opened the scoring the England international doubled our lead with a tremendous strike giving the keeper no chance. Maxi floated a clever pass into Aquilani. Unfortunately, the Italian slipped however the ball rolled perfectly into the path of Steven Gerrard, who struck home with power, pace and precision leaving Jensen helpless.
It was a simply stunning strike from Gerrard who seems to be coming into form at the perfect time for England, but at precisely the wrong time for Liverpool, who are yet to have seen his true potential during the current campaign.
Burnley went close to finding a way back into the game with 20 minutes left as Fletcher's shot beat both Carragher and Reina before rebounding off the post. It was a wake up call for the Reds, as a goal at that stage would have revitalised Burnley and sparked an onslaught from the home side in a desperate attempt to delay their inevitable relegation.
4 minutes later Liverpool scored a third to completely kill the game off. It was a fantastic team goal that rounded off an impressive display nicely. Benayoun, who had replaced the injured Dirk Kuyt, sqaured the ball to Aquilani. Aquilani controlled the ball before threading a terrific pass into the path of Maxi Rodriguez, who was running into the box down the right wing.
It was a wonderful pass from Aquilani, who played well yesterday. This type of cutting edge passing is what Liverpool have been missing for most of the season, however Aquilani looks to possess the passing range that will add a crucial extra dimension to Liverpool's attacking creativity.
Maxi ran onto the ball before slotting the ball past Jensen. It was Maxi's first goal in a Reds shirt, which is surprsing condisering the attacking ability that he has brought to the right hand side of the midfield. In fact, Maxi has had such a positive effect on the Reds midfield play that Rafa has already described him as a "very important player."
With time running out Burnley nearly managed a consoltaion goal as a poor clearance from Glen Johnson was easily cut out by Wade Elliott. The 31 year old passed to Eagles, who put a dangerous cross into the area. The ball travelled to the back post where Stven Thompson's weak header rolled wide of the far post.
In the last minuted of injury time Liverpool scored a fourth. Lucas received a pass from Aquilani before playing a fantastic through ball into the path of Ryan Babel, who shot past Brian Jensen to confirm an emphatic victory for the Reds.
A common criticism from Lucas' detractors, who seem to blame him for all of our problems this season, is that he lacks the passing ability of Xabi Alonso. Of course, very few people have the passing range of Alonso yet his critics fail to realise that fact. However, this world class pass, amongst others (eg, his through ball for Torres' winner at home to Blackburn)proves that the Brazilian is improving, and should be given extra time to prove he is a top player.
The 4-0 scoreline is an inaccurate reflection of Burnley's performance as Laws' men played quite well, and looked threatening for the first 50 minutes until Gerrard showed his class by scoring twice in 10 minutes. By that point there was no chance of a miraculous recovery from the home side.
This uplifting victory should raise Liverpool's confidence levels ahead of the crucial return leg of our Europa League semi-final at home to Athletico Madrid on Thursday. Perhaps more importantly, this success could prove crucial in turning around Liverpool's fortuntes on the road, leading to much improved performances away from Anfield next season.