19 May 2013

Liverpool 1-0 QPR

Goals:
Coutinho 23'

Acta est fabula, plaudite!

No, that wasn't Jamie Carragher's testimonial. That happened a few years ago. Although, for all of QPR's threat, it might as well have been. He leaves with yet another clean sheet, and his 398th win in 737 appearances for Liverpool. And had his 62nd minute shot been two inches to the right, a goal that would have imploded Anfield.

It was only Liverpool's third 1-0 win in the league, following home victories against Reading and Southampton in October and December. But it never felt like a 1-0 win, with QPR offering next to no threat and Liverpool comfortable throughout. The margin of victory probably should have been more, which is a phrase I haven't written in a while.

There was less experimentation than with last week's XI, but Liverpool still found a place for Jordon Ibe, the seventh Academy player to make his debut this season, starting ahead of Shelvey and Borini on the left. And from the opening whistle, Ibe demonstrated the same strong running and intent he's shown for the u21s this season. Liverpool should have taken the lead within two minutes, from a corner no less, when QPR cleared Coutinho's header from about a foot behind the goal line, unseen by both referee and linesman. But goal line technology would ruin the game, right Sepp?

At least Liverpool didn't make us wait too much longer for the opening goal, unsurprisingly scored by the same player, who was the hub of everything good. The Brazilian received the ball from Ibe 25 yards out and whistled an unstoppable low shot past the despairing Rob Green, just rewards for the way Liverpool started the match.

But despite continued dominance, Liverpool couldn't find the second. Coutinho pulled the strings while Johnson and Enrique rampaged forward at will, but Sturridge couldn't make the same impact he had against Fulham, mostly well marshaled by Hill and Onouha. After halftime, Enrique, Ibe, Downing, and that aforementioned Carragher blast nearly extended the lead, Borini and Suso replaced Ibe and Coutinho, and Green saved shots from Suso and Enrique. Otherwise, the highlight was Carragher's substitution with five minutes to play, going off for a deserved standing ovation, followed by a tear-inducing low, slow version of You'll Never Walk Alone.

And thus ends Liverpool's season, and Jamie Carragher's 23-year affiliation with the club.

61 points is Liverpool's highest total since Rafa Benitez's final season four campaigns ago. It's nine points more and one place higher more than last season. Liverpool scored 29 more league goals this season, and conceded just three more. A lot of credit for that last stat goes to Jamie Carragher; Liverpool let in just 12 goals in the 15 league games he played since Norwich on January 19, keeping eight clean sheets.

There is obviously still much work to be done, not least in replacing a Liverpool legend. And I caution that we felt similar optimism at the end of the 2010-11 season, when Dalglish as caretaker seemed to put Liverpool on the right path, before Liverpool's summer transfer dealings took Liverpool off that path.

Nonetheless, over the second half of the season, we've seen Liverpool improve, in all areas and phases of the game. That improvement is a definite cause for optimism, and that optimism that will make the next three months a long, eagerly anticipated wait.

4 comments:

Biggestfandownunder said...

Thanks mate for your hard work in putting all these articles together.

Not sure how you do it -- after so many games this season (and the last and the last and the last...) I had such a case of blue funk I couldn't even speak to my wife let alone write about it.

Kudos!

suley said...

and now the long dreaded wait for next season... the increase in optimism as the new season approaches before crushing disappointment once the season begins... the cycle never fails

but this time it feels different with Coutinho and Sturridge and the general consistency we have been developing of late. With one or two more quality additions we just may crack that top four once more.

Oh no is that optimism creeping in once again!

Stephen said...

Nate,

Great work this season! So glad to have found this blog. Look forward to it every weekend. Great analysis and some funny to boot. Have a great summer

TomW said...

Great stuff Nate.

It's been an enjoyable well-written read through the season, so much so that it got to the point where unless Pepe started bowling the ball out from the beginning I was doubting that we had a hope of winning!

I'm confident that if we sign two world-class centre backs during the summer, we'll be amongst the top 4 come May 2014.