Just good enough. The difference that taking just one of those oft-mentioned chances makes.
25 shots, eight on target, with the woodwork hit twice. 62% possession, 21 chances created. A handful of impressive, out-of-character saves by the opposition goalkeeper. But one went in, and one was enough.
The first half was the same story writ large in giant, tedious letters. Liverpool dominant, Liverpool untroubled, but Liverpool unable to score despite multiple opportunities to do so. The home side simply played keep-away, camped in QPR's half, winning seven corners in the first half hour. Within 15 minutes, Suarez had put a free header straight at Cerny, had an impossible-angled shot skitter across the face of goal after nicking the post, and had misfired after a brilliant one-two with the again-impressive Maxi. Cerny spectacularly denied the South American dynamic duo in the 31st and 42nd, then smothered Downing's near post blast to close the half. Suarez and Johnson also appealed for respective penalties that Mason would never deign to give. Meanwhile, QPR's lone riposte was a Wright-Phillips blast from distance that was more threatening to the stewards than Reina.
But nothing went in.
Then, in the 47th, something went in. Suarez, somehow allowed a second chance to avenge an opportunity wasted, set up by Adam's outstanding right-footed cross, put a free header from the exact same position where Cerny couldn't reach it this time.
Nothing ever comes easily, so it goes without saying that Liverpool weren't fortunate enough to burst that ubiquitous dam. Repeating heroics seen in front of the Kop all too often this season, QPR were kept in the game by their third-string (!) keeper, on a personal mission to deny Maxi an 11th goal in 10 starts. Cerny stonewalled the Argentinean twice, in the 61st and 67th, both set up by Suarez. The first was the other effort off the woodwork, saved onto the post after Suarez jinked into space and cut back to the penalty spot. The second was point blank after a four-touch one-two-one-two rendered both center-backs irrelevant.
With Liverpool increasingly content to counter-attack a compressed opposition after finally making the break-through, QPR's second substitution – replacing winger Tommy Smith with former Blackpool striker DJ Campbell with 25 minutes to play – made life marginally more terrifying. The away side finally had spells of coordinated possession, but few moments actually required Reina to contemplate intervention: a wild shot from distance here, a dangerous free kick flicked well over there, a few punches on the few corners QPR earned. When needed, Liverpool's defenders defended excellently: Skrtel consistently and Enrique notably on QPR's best and only real chance, in injury time, doing just enough to prevent a close-range back post header.
Because Liverpool's attackers got that one needed goal, the spine can get its due plaudits. The center-backs brooked no quarter and the only two available central midfielders, who hadn't previously started together in a two-man pairing, set the tone and tempo. Henderson's non-stop movement and Adam's ability on the ball muted Barton and Faurlin, and were crucial to Liverpool controlling the pace in the first hour. Adam, increasingly comfortable in every successive match, has been in outstanding form since Chelsea – better positionally, stronger on the ball, and winning aerial duels to go along with the ever-present (sometimes wayward) guided missile passing. And another pairing – the aforementioned Suarez and Maxi – will get deserved plaudits, the latter constantly threatening, as is his wont, and the former sccoring the winner, having his best game since that (sigh) first FA charge.
Admittedly, just one goal wasn't good enough against Norwich or Sunderland, and there were still far too many similarities to those set-backs. Opposition keeping and opportunities spurned remain valid, frustrating talking points, foreplay too often unfulfilled. But getting the necessary three points, any way possible, forged with resolute defending from all involved, is both confidence-enhancing progress and far more enjoyable than previously-seen alternatives.