By Arun Nair – (@Nair_39)
Luis Suarez struck twice as Liverpool recorded a comfortable 3-0 win over struggling QPR to end 2012 with all three points at Loftus Road. The Uruguayan’s brace, added to by a header from Daniel Agger, secured the points for the Reds, sending Liverpool up to ninth.
It was a much-needed victory after the dismal defeat at Stoke, and it was gained despite the absence of manager Brendan Rodgers, who was struck down with a virus, leaving assistant manager Colin Pascoe to take up the reins.
Despite the pre-match turmoil, the away side began brightly, enjoying the majority of the possession and finding time and space on the ball almost effortlessly, while haranguing the QPR players when out of possession, forcing errors. Suarez gave the home side an early scare, jinking past Clint Hill before having his shot beaten away by Julio Cesar.
The R’s failed to heed the warning. Suarez recieved the ball on the edge of the area before darting past Hill and poking home past Cesar. It was the early goal the Reds would have hoped for, and QPR looked shellshocked.
Suarez was carving the QPR rearguard apart, with Hill dealt the brunt of his merciless skill, swerving past at will. It didn’t take long for him to add his second. The Uruguayan combined with Stewart Downing on the right before crossing only for Nedum Onuoha to slide in to divert the ball away as Raheem Sterling prepared to pounce. However, the ball found its way back to Suarez, who fired in from close range to leave QPR firmly staring down the barrel of another defeat.
QPR were lacking in most areas of the pitch, and while Jamie Mackie chased lost causes and raced up and down the right wing, his tireless industry was unmatched by most of his teammates. The home side were lacking in luck also, Adel Taraabt denied a penalty when his free kick struck Jordan Henderson’s raised arm.
Liverpool were still creating chances, aided by defending from the home side which was at times woeful. Glen Johnson was denied by a last-ditch block after he was allowed the latch on to Martin Skrtel’s clearance, while Steven Gerrard was left in acres of space to steer a shot at Cesar when found by Downing on the edge of the area from a corner.
It was another corner which led to the Reds’ third. Gerrard was again the reciever, and was afforded time to swing in a cross, met by Agger, whose powerful header found the bottom corner.
Henderson fired a shot from range wide and Suarez was foiled by Ryan Nelsen’s block as Liverpool pressed for further goals. Gerrard came closest, firing Suarez’ cut back towards goal only for Armand Traore to block and Nelsen to hack clear off the line.
QPR improved after the break, but still didn’t come close to finding a way past the almost untroubled Pepe Reina, while Liverpool continued to look menacing, threatening to add more to the scoreline. Suarez almost had a hat-trick when Cesar tipped his effort onto the bar, while Henderson blazed over when given space in the area from a corner.
Stephane Mbia’s free kick was saved by Reina and the QPR midfielder also drove wide late on, but was the most the home side could muster, having looked a beaten side from the moment Suarez opened the scoring.
The Reds closed out the win to send themselves up to ninth, eight points adrift of 4th placed Tottenham. The deficit is large, but by no means insurmountable. If Rodgers’ Reds can find some much-needed consistency, then Liverpool’s league performance in 2013 will surely more prosperous, and hopefully less disappointing, than that of 2012, and fans can be optimistic that the Reds will be challenging for the Champions League places come May.