Coutinho ensures win for Carragher's final Liverpool game

Liverpool 1 QPR 0
Forward Philippe Coutinho was Liverpool’s match-winner but Jamie Carragher was the star of the show at Anfield on his 737th and final appearance for the club.

The veteran centre-back brought the curtain down on a first-team career spanning 16 years 131 days – the seventh longest in the club’s history.

Such is his longevity the 35-year-old has served under six different permanent managers at Anfield but his own influence on the team during that time cannot be underestimated

And while the day was rightly a celebration of his achievements, the fact the game had the slight feeling of a testimonial would not have impressed the ultra-competitive, ultra-professional Carragher.

Coutinho’s sweet strike after 23 minutes provided the only goal but the difference between the two sides was huge and Liverpool should have put a hatful past relegated QPR.

There was a sense of out with the old and in with the new as 17-year-old Jordon Ibe, signed from the Wycombe academy, made his debut.

He was 13 months old when Carragher made his first Liverpool appearance but the youngster was not over-awed by the occasion, especially with all the focus on his team-mate, and after growing into his left-wing role provided the assist for the opening goal

Cutting in from the left he teed up Coutinho to fire home a low shot from 25 yards.

The Brazilian should already have had one to his name as in the opening couple of minutes his low, diving header from Stewart Downing’s corner was cleared by full-back Michael Harriman but only after it appeared to have crossed the line.

Coutinho, Liverpool’s player of the second half of the season after arriving from Inter Milan for £8.5million in January, also almost scored direct from a corner and had a shot blocked by Shaun Derry.

Despite QPR’s lack of real attacking thrust Carragher continued to be the focus - although trying to add to his career tally of just five goals by attempting to punch a cross past Robert Green would hardly have been fitting.

Referee Michael Atkinson contributed to the convivial atmosphere by opting not to book the centre-back, who then saw a shot blocked from a rehearsed Downing short free-kick.

Loic Remy provided the visitors’ only threat and after an early shout for a penalty after coming into contact with Lucas Leiva he fired one shot wide and then mis-kicked from close range trying to convert Armand Traore’s cross.

With the Championship looming for QPR next season they did not seem interested in making a fight of it and Liverpool attacked at will after the break.

Glen Johnson’s shot deflected wickedly off Derry but Green reacted quick enough to push it around the post while Daniel Sturridge’s goalbound volley hit Traore and Downing fired into the side-netting.

All afternoon the Kop had been urging Carragher to shoot – from a varying degree of ridiculous angles and distances – but he declined them all until just past the hour.

The ball dropped to him 25 yards out and he smashed a first-time effort which cannoned back off the post with Green well beaten.

But it is not his goals for which he will be remembered – highlighted by the statistic that since he returned to the first team in January Liverpool have lost just one of 15 league games, conceding 12 goals.

And his attitude in that respect was typified when Carragher outsprinted Remy to prevent the ball going out for a corner by mere inches and direct it back to goalkeeper Jose Reina.

He was substituted for Sebastian Coates five minutes from time to a standing ovation but the old warhorse would much rather have seen out time on the pitch than take the applause from off it – however deserved it was.

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