30 December 2012

Liverpool 3-0 QPR

Suarez 10' 16'
Agger 28'

The first half was another "proper response" to a Liverpool disappointment. The second half was a mere formality that both sides probably would have rather done without. So be it; that'll more than do. Goodbye and good riddance, 2012.

It followed the same script as Liverpool's last proper response. Lose to Villa, hammer Fulham, out of sight by halftime. Lose to Stoke, hammer QPR, out of sight within 30 minutes. I don't think this is the consistency that Rodgers was after, but it's consistency none the less.

That performance made it fairly easy to understand why QPR prop up the Premier League table, but – like against Fulham – Liverpool fully merited its early advantage. This time it was thanks to Suarez, all Suarez, creating both goals from next to nothing after laying a marker by testing Cesar with a fierce blast in the third minute. Clint Hill won't enjoy watching replays of the opener, made when Suarez received a pass from Henderson in space between the lines and charged at Hill, completely bamboozling him with a shoulder feint, then sprinting past to easily slot into the corner. Opta's head of content sarcastically called it a Suarez throughball for himself. He wasn't far off.

Six minutes later, that same man tallied again: flicking on a Skrtel long ball for Downing, getting the return pass and racing across the byline. His low cross towards Sterling was well cut out by Onouha, but Suarez was first to the rebound by some distance, smashing in with his left foot from point-blank range.

From there, it looked as if Liverpool could have any scoreline they chose. QPR's ragged defense retreated deeper and deeper and Liverpool monopolized the ball, with Henderson heavily involved as the most advanced midfielder and Gerrard making excellent runs from deep. Taarabt was literally the only QPR player making an effort, and was limited to more-than-hopeful shots from distance, none of which truly tested Reina.

Liverpool chose 3-0, all but declaring after Agger headed in from a short corner, the second time Liverpool's scored from a short corner in the last three games after going a full year without doing so. Gerrard had a deflected shot cleared off the line in the 37th and sailed an effort over the bar four minutes later, but otherwise, Liverpool were happy to be comfortable.

On the one hand, it's completely understandable to take the foot off the gas after a packed festive season, two more matches within a week, and with handful of players and staff suffering from sickness (Rodgers, Brad Jones, and Glen Driscoll had to miss the match with norovirus, Colin Pascoe took Rodgers' place but reportedly had a different illness). On the other, a curb-stomping – which QPR were totally there for – is not only tons of fun but good for morale. Especially when it's a Harry Redknapp side getting curb-stomped.

Liverpool took 15 shots in the first half. They took four in the second half. That about sums it up. Lucas replaced Henderson, Suso replaced Enrique, and Carragher came on for Allen in the final minutes as the side cruised home with next to no energy expended.

Unfortunately, the only incident of note in the final 45 minutes was an injury to Enrique: at best a hamstring strain, at worse a hamstring tear. Neither is good. Whether he's replaced by Downing or Johnson, with Wisdom at right back, is a discussion for another day, but he's assuredly missing the next few matches at the very least. It just wouldn't be Liverpool without some bad news.

Like against Fulham, it's hard to tell how much was due to Liverpool competence or QPR's incompetence. Given QPR's league form, it's tempting to assume their incompetence played a large part in it. Nonetheless, credit where due. In those first 30 minutes, Suarez was at his unplayable best; Clint Hill's having nightmares for at least a week. Gerrard was again outstanding in a deeper role, making smart runs into the box (and unlucky not to score at least once) while contributing with some key defensive plays. His five tackles and three interceptions were both team highs. Allen and Gerrard kept Taarabt fairly quiet despite those multiple shots from distance, Henderson did well in an attacking role, and Agger and Skrtel both responded brilliantly at the other end of the pitch, marking Cisse into such oblivion that he was taken off at half-time for a defensive midfielder. At the same time, it's the first time that QPR have conceded more than twice in Redknapp's seven matches, as well as the first time they've lost by more than a single goal.

QPR may have been utterly dire, but at least Liverpool end 2012 on a positive note. Another annus horribilis, arguably the third in a row, started with a 0-3 away defeat, but ends with a 3-0 away win (don't bother looking up the respective opposition). There's obviously a long, long way to go, but here's hoping it's a sign of better to come in 2013.


Ryan McKain said...

Thanks for another year of great work.

Stibs said...

Absolutely agree, always my first port of call for an intelligent and well-written report. Keep up the good work! Happy New Year!