Liverpool are shocked by a dramatic late QPR comeback that sees the relegation threatened Londoners overcome a 2-0 deficit and win 3-2.
Kenny Dalglish made two changes to his starting line-up from the side that advanced to the FA Cup semi-finals at the expense of Stoke City on Sunday. Charlie Adam and Dirk Kuyt, who was making his 200th appearance for the club, were the men to return with Andy Carroll dropping to the bench and Maxi Rodriguez missing out altogether. The match day squad was still missing the injured trio Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson and Craig Bellamy.
Perhaps understandably given their precarious position towards the foot of the table, the hosts started nervously and continually gifted possession to Liverpool.
A poorly taken Joey Barton free kick in the opening minutes went straight to Adam and allowed the visitors to launch a quick counter-attack. The Scottish midfielder instantly played the ball up field and following a misjudgement by Nedum Onuoha, Luis Suarez latched onto the pass and forced a fine double save from QPR keeper Paddy Kenny.
The Reds enjoyed a succession of corners during the opening 15 minutes but a combination of good goalkeeping and brave blocks continued to keep the visitors at bay.
Stewart Downing was the next to have a great chance of breaking the deadlock following a lovely through ball by Martin Kelly. The recovering Shaun Derry did well to make the most of a momentary hesitation by Downing, on his weaker right-foot, and divert the shot for another corner.
From the resulting set-piece Kuyt, searching for his first goal since last month`s Carling Cup final, looked likely to open the scoring as he got on the end of Steven Gerrard`s out-swinging delivery but the Dutchman`s shot was blocked on the goal-line by a lunging Luke Young.
QPR`s only effort of note at this stage had come courtesy of former Reds forward Djibril Cisse. The Frenchman exchanged a neat series of passes with strike partner Bobby Zamora before unleashing a low drive from the edge of the area that narrowly missed the right-hand post.
Cisse again went close with a long-range effort just after the half-hour mark, this time the strike went inches wide of the other upright much to the relief of a full-stretch Pepe Reina.
After Liverpool`s long period of initial dominance, the final exchanges of the opening 45 minutes were a more even affair.
Moments after the restart the Reds were forced into a second unplanned change as Jordan Henderson replaced Adam. Earlier Sebastian Coates had come on for an injured Kelly in the 33rd minute.
A few minutes later and one of the substitutes finally opened the scoring with an absolutely fantastic strike. Following a Gerrard corner, Zamora had cleared away a Downing effort but only for the ball to fall to Coates who acrobatically swivelled and sent a flying volley into the roof of the net. The spectacular goal was the young Uruguayan`s first for the club and it is hard to imagine he will ever score a better one.
Spurred on by finally taking the lead, Liverpool began to exert their authority once more. Downing twice tested Kenny with decent efforts before Dalglish`s side again broke the R`s resistance in the 72nd minute.
A neat turn and shot from Suarez hit the post only for Downing to recover the rebound and force a great diving stop out of Kenny. Unfortunately for the experienced Irish shot stopper there was nothing he could do to prevent Kuyt from prodding home the resulting loose ball and doubling the Reds advantage.
At this stage there appeared to be only one winner but QPR suddenly burst into life and decided to commit everything they had to finding a way back into the game.
Taye Taiwo went close with a fierce free kick which took a slight flick off Spearing to earn the hosts a 77th minute corner. From which, veteran midfielder Derry managed to rise highest and head home Adel Taarabt`s expert delivery, giving his side a lifeline in the process.
Despite their efforts the QPR fight back looked destined to fail as the clock ticked down. Suddenly though in the 86th minute, Taiwo got in down the left and produced a wonderful cross which Cisse was on hand to nod home from inside the six-yard box. The goal meant a lot to the 30-year-old, who has often admitted he never wanted to leave Anfield, but it meant even more to his team in their desperate fight against relegation.
Given the comeback and the quality of opposition the R`s would no doubt have been happy with a draw but a minute into injury time the situation inexplicably got even better for Mark Hughes` side. Substitute Jamie Mackie pounced on a Jose Enrique miss-kick and calmly slotted the ball between the legs of Reina to send the Loftus Road crowd into unexpected pandemonium.
An unbelievable turn around but one that owes as much to our inadequacies as it does the resolute fighting spirit of QPR. By the time they scored their first we should have been 5 or 6 in front and out of sight but again our profligacy in front of goal has cost us dear. That said, you should still be able to defend a 2-0 lead with less than 15 minutes remaining especially against inferior opposition. We could of and should have done better on all of their goals but the winner was especially disappointing as Enrique`s air shot was not even a Sunday league standard attempt at clearing the ball. The league campaign is now effectively dead and buried despite their being 9 games still to play. The FA Cup becomes increasingly important now and will largely determine how this season is judged because once again the league campaign has been pretty abysmal as a whole.
Liverpool’s Star Player
Reina, Kelly (Coates 34), Enrique, Skrtel, Carragher, Adam (Henderson 46), Spearing, Gerrard, Downing, Suarez (Carroll 82), Kuyt.
Unused subs: Doni, Aurelio, Flanagan, Shelvey.
Click here to read Kenny Dalglish’s comments on the match
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