Premier League – Rampant Liverpool send Burnley down
The Clarets had their fate sealed with two games remaining after two second half strikes from the Liverpool skipper confirmed Brian Laws’s side’s fate despite a valiant display.
Burnley dominated the first half and squandered the two best chances, but Gerrard followed a fortunate deflected strike in the 52nd minute with a screamer seven minutes later.
Maxi Rodriguez applied a clinical finish three minutes later before Ryan Babel pounced in stoppage-time to inflict the final blow to the hosts’ survival hopes and round off a comprehensive victory for the Reds.
Dirk Kuyt was an isolated figure in attack for Liverpool as Gerrard played deep with Alberto Aquilani and Javier Mascherano further back, and the forward became increasingly frustrated as the first half wore on.
Burnley had by the far the best two chances of the first half, but the hosts lacked the conviction to capitalise on Rafael Benitez’s side’s uncertainty before the break.
Steven Fletcher headed over the bar after the forward outmuscled Jamie Carragher to meet Martin Paterson’s pinpoint cross in the 27th minute, and the defender was a relieved man.
Gerrard was typically instrumental for the visitors, and the midfielder was denied a fierce volley from the edge of the Burnley box on the half hour as Jack Cork made a stunning block.
The Reds skipper then played a slick one-two with Aquilani as he hurtled into the Burnley box, but his shot was tame and straight at Jensen. Replays suggested that Tyrone Mears inadvertently handled the ball in the box as the move developed, but Liverpool’s appeals were stifled.
A second clear-cut opportunity for the hosts to assume a lead going into the break was squandered by Cork, as the midfielder ghosted into the Liverpool box unmarked, but headed straight at Pepe Reina from Wade Elliott’s devilish delivery out on the right.
Kuyt sustained a knee injury just after half-time, and the Dutchman was replaced by Yossi Benayoun as the Reds played the second half without a recognised centre-forward, clearly relieved to have gone into the break unscathed.
Liverpool had considerably more purpose and invention in the second half, and Gerrard took just seven minutes to make his mark: a neat one-two with Aquilani found the midfielder space, before his fierce drive took a vicious deflection off Leon Cort to wrong-foot the helpless Brian Jensen.
If Gerrard’s first strike was fortunate, his second was anything but: the Liverpool skipper raced into the Burnley half before unleashing a rasping strike to pick out the bottom corner of Jensen’s net from 25 yards.
The hosts were relatively subdued as Liverpool continued to surge forward in their droves from midfield, but Fletcher almost hauled his side back into the contest with a neat turn to beat Carragher, and a low volley which cannoned off Reina’s far post and away to safety in the 71st minute.
Liverpool were undeterred by Fletcher’s effort, and three minutes later Aquilani slid a precise through ball into the path of the onrushing Maxi, before the Argentine proceeded to slam a low shot beyond Jensen into the far corner of the net as the visitors assumed a three-goal cushion.
The home fans refused to stream out of the exits as their side battled on valiantly, but Liverpool’s victory was given an even more emphatic complexion as Babel beat the offside trap in stoppage-time and beat Jensen to make it four.
The final whistle brought an end to Burnley’s brief stint in the top flight, and the Clarets will join Portsmouth in the Championship next season, while Liverpool move to within a point of Manchester City in sixth spot.
Dan Quarrell / Eurosport