Liverpool grabbed three vital points against Queens Park Rangers this afternoon in a thrilling encounter where it seemed both sides were intent on throwing away the chance to finish a game that was time and again, there for the taking.
Own goals from Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker, a brace from Eduardo Vargas, and a Philippe Coutinho drive summed up a memorable afternoon in the capital. Laurel and Hardy made a film once called County Hospital and for the faint hearted, that’s exactly where they’d end up if they watched this one! Even those two masters of comedy would have struggled to conjure up something to even rival this.
Brendan Rodgers is clearly reading The LFC File match preview because he started with Emre Can in front of the back four, Steven Gerrard just ahead of Jordan Henderson and a front three of Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli. Glen Johnson kept his place at right back and Jose Enrique was preferred at left back in place of Alberto Moreno. Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren in the centre. This in my view was an ideal set up to give some assistance to Balotelli and play more to his strengths. What Rodgers didn’t do though, is instil some fight in the side.
QPR set about Liverpool in the same way that all of their opponents have this season. Physical, pressing hard and crowding Balotelli out of the game. The hosts almost went ahead on a couple of occasions with Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora in combative mood and constantly first to every forward ball. Colin Pascoe told the official LFC website “We always say ‘start quickly and move the ball quickly’…”. I’m not altogether sure who exactly they “say” that to because on this evidence, it isn’t the team. Having said that, there were some positives to take from the first half.
Emre Can slotted in seamlessly into the midfield and was one of a handful of players to make a difference. Most of the team seemed quite subdued as they huffed and puffed throughout the first period and were lucky to go into half time without conceding after Leroy Fer twice hit the bar.
The second half began in less frantic fashion and Liverpool were looking more dangerous. Steven Gerrard was more withdrawn and Emre Can pushed forward to good effect putting through two or three passes between the home side defence. For me, it looked as if Liverpool would go on to win such had the tide turned. However, QPR still looked dangerous and on 66 minutes, Rodgers made a double substitution. Joe Allen and Coutinho on for Can and Lallana. A minute later, the visitors took the lead. An own goal from Dunne after a quick free-kick caught the defence napping. His half-hearted clearance beating the helpless Alex McCarthy.
Just when it seemed as if Liverpool would stagger across the line and claim the spoils, the ghosts of defences past and present came to haunt us in spectacular style. on 87 minutes, Vargas beats Mignolet with a looping header. 1-1, squeaky bum time. A minute later, the first of four minutes injury time signalled by the fourth official, Coutinho cut in from the left of the QPR defence to unleash a right-footed drive past McCarthy following a flowing move reminiscent of the real Liverpool. 2-1 and back in the driving seat. Less than a minute later, Vargas heads in at the near post from a corner. 2-2 and Christmas had arrived for the hosts.
With 92 minutes on the clock, Coutinho ran toward the home defence before pushing a slide-rule through ball into the stride of Sterling. Looking up, the youngster squared to Balotelli for what would have been a fairytale end for him in a match where he’d missed two golden chances to put the game to bed. It wasn’t to be. Steven Caulker was on hand to convert it for him. Own goal and 2-3. Despair coursed through the home crowd, instantly replacing the jubilation that engulfed them just moments earlier. The hosts were ahead on points, only to allow drop their arms and take a haymaker to the jaw. Lights out. Good night.
Liverpool didn’t deserve to win this on the face of it. However, I have a saying, the best team always wins on the day. For all the word deserve get’s pushed around, the best team scores more than the other. However it comes. Point.
Brendan Rodgers has some serious thinking to do. Personally I felt Can and Lallana, the whole Liverpool side for that matter were beginning to make inroads into QPR. I would contend that the substitutions done more harm to the side than good. Notwithstanding Coutinho scoring. They looked as if they were going to do that anyway by the time the changes were made. Apparently there was a scout in the crowd from Real Madrid. His notes must have been wet from tears of laughter after seeing this.
Liverpool are now fifth. Don’t ask me how but they are. Simply due to determination and a bit of luck. Truth is, if they want to stay there, they’re going to have to improve. Monumentally.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mrbengreen