02 May 2015

Liverpool 2-1 QPR

Coutinho 19'
Fer 73'
Gerrard 87'

For awhile, it looked like we'd once again achieved Peak Liverpool.

The same formation which had led to disaster against West Brom and Hull. A difficult, lethargic start, but a surprisingly well-worked opening goal to give the team hope.

Then, a complete inability to get the game-killing second despite multiple opportunities to do so, including missed sitters from Lallana and Sterling. Followed by the least surprising of equalizers when QPR finally took advantage of one of the set plays Liverpool kept conceding.

There was renewed hope when Liverpool won a soft, stupid penalty, which was promptly saved when Gerrard shot too close to Robert Green. Onuoha sent off for a second yellow in as many minutes, but Liverpool once again raging with sound and fury that would seemingly signify nothing.

Until Liverpool's ninth corner of the match in the 87th minute, having wasted the previous eight. A storming header in front of the Kop by Gerrard, reminiscent of his opener against Everton last season, of the first in Liverpool's 2005 Champions League comeback. Liverpool's first league goal from a corner in 2015, just Liverpool's third league goal from a corner this season.

It may be a meaningless moral victory in the grand scheme of things, but it's a moral victory nonetheless, both for Liverpool and for Gerrard personally. And, even more important, it's an actual victory, Liverpool's first since April 13. That's the way Gerrard's Liverpool career should end: a late winner in front of the Kop that turned back the clock. That's the narrative he should go out with, not the pain we've endured, he's endured over the last calendar year.

To be fair to Liverpool, it was better than we'd seen in the last two matches. Lambert was much more involved than Balotelli, and did well to set up Liverpool's first goal. Lallana made Liverpool more coherent in the final third, despite that awful miss which would have made the game a lot easier (a miss, to be fair, which was nowhere near as bad as Sterling's). The two former Southampton players were more influential as starters then they'd been as substitutes, while Ibe did well off the bench when replacing Lallana. Coutinho ran the game wonderfully despite the tricky surface; Sterling, Coutinho, Lallana, Henderson, and Lambert all combined fairly well. Can actually looked more like a right-back, not trying to act as another midfielder with Liverpool in possession, exposing Liverpool to unnecessary threats.

With different fullbacks, a different holding midfielder, a different striker, and Sakho instead of Lovren, you could maybe almost kinda see a future for this formation.

How much of that was down to QPR being QPR is a valid question, though. QPR are deservedly 19th, nearly relegated; they battled for the points they so desperately need – never giving up as Newcastle (and arguably Burnley) have given up – but it's also clear why that defense has conceded the most goals in the league this season. Liverpool remained goal shy, creating better chances but putting too many shots off-target. Liverpool remained vulnerable on counters and set plays, the back four still nowhere near as secure as the back three. Liverpool again conceded a goal they had no business conceding. Liverpool still looks far too much like the Liverpool we saw from September through November rather than the one from January through March.

But at this point, I'll happily settle for "better" any way it happens. Today certainly wasn't the matches at West Brom or Hull, two teams that aren't much more troublesome than QPR have been recently. I'll happily settle for Liverpool's first late winner in the league since Balotelli's against Tottenham back in February. I'll happily settle for Gerrard remembered for scoring a vital goal rather than missing a penalty or being run past by yet another opposition midfielder.

I'll happily settle for all three points, points which make Liverpool's hold on fifth slightly more secure.

No comments :