QPR 0 Liverpool 3
It has been a difficult year for Liverpool — you might even say an annus horriblis — and there have been a lot of changes at Anfield over the course of it; but Brendan Rodger’s side have at least ended 2012 with a performance that suggests the next 12 months may have a more positive outcome.
Rodgers was not at Loftus Road to witness a convincing 3-0 victory — he was one of several members of staff affected by a virus — but Liverpool’s overall health shows signs of improving.
Their performance in the opening half hour in west London, in which Luis Suarez scored twice and Daniel Agger once, was hailed by captain Steven Gerrard as their best spell of the season so far and lauded even by QPR manager Harry Redknapp who had to suffer it from the opposition dugout.
That early spell wrapped up a win that takes Liverpool up to ninth in the Premier League table, now only eight points adrift of the top four, and with a growing sense of belief that Rodgers’ revolution is starting to gain momentum. The way Suarez in particular took apart a QPR side desperately lacking in confidence was an eye-opener; and the way he linked with Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and the revitalised Stewart Downing proves Liverpool now have a bite to go with their clever passing in midfield — something Rodgers has been waiting for.
“The way Luis put his chances away, and his movement, was fantastic,” said Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe. “The performances in a lot of our games have been terrific. Coming to QPR, a tough place to come, I think the way we played was superb.”
Suarez’s opening goal was a striking masterclass, accepting a straight pass from Jordan Henderson and accelerating smoothly and instantly past his marker Clint Hill on the blind side before flashing home a right-foot shot past goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The second was more predatory and followed a flowing move down the right that ended with Suarez firing home left-footed at the second attempt.
Liverpool’s third came after 28 minutes and highlighted just how low on confidence and organisation QPR are — as this time the home side went completely to sleep as they allowed Downing to take a short corner to Gerrard and then stood still as Agger headed home his cross.
There could easily have been more as Suarez wreaked havoc every time he touched the ball, forcing goalkeeper Cesar into an excellent save in the second half, but once QPR brought on defensive midfielder Shaun Derry in place of striker Djibril Cisse the chances began to dissolve and the home side at least ended the match with a little pride.
“It was hard,” admitted Redknapp afterwards. “They’ve got better quality than we had, everywhere. You look at the quality of their players, and there’s one club who’ve spent £200m on their players and we couldn’t get near them. They ran us ragged. They are a great team who should be challenging for the top four.
“It hurt, but what can you do? I’ve seen Suarez do that against everyone he’s played against this year, he is what he is, a fantastic striker and one of the top half dozen in the world. My two centre-halves gave everything, they’re both 35... you couldn’t have asked for more. They gave everything.”
If that’s the case then everything was nowhere near enough; because the truth is Liverpool won this game at a canter and although Redknapp insisted “I still think we’ll stay up” there are few people, even in west London, who are willing to believe him right now.
Liverpool, though, are starting to show some promise. Downing was again much improved, Sterling continues to grow, Lucas is fit again and even Henderson, who played despite illness, is starting to find his feet. With a couple of signings, including Daniel Sturridge, in January it is not difficult to imagine Rodgers’ side moving up the table in the new year.
On this evidence 2013 is going to provide some welcome respite for Liverpool’s long-suffering fans.
QPR: Julio Cesar 7, Onuoha 6, Nelsen 6, Hill 6, Traore 6, Mackie 5, Diakite 5 (Granero 63; 5), Mbia 7, Wright-Phillips 4 (Da Silva 80), Taarabt 6, Cisse 5 (Derry 46).
LIVERPOOL: Reina 6, Johnson 7, Skrtel 6, Agger 7, Jose Enrique 6 (Suso 71), Allen 7 (Carragher 87), Henderson 7 (Lucas 63), Downing 7, Gerrard 8, Sterling 7, Suarez 9.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
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