Harry Redknapp made four changes from the line-up which succumbed to West Brom at Loftus Road on Boxing Day for the final Premier League clash of 2012. Julio Cesar started in between the sticks in place of the luckless Robert Green. The trio of Anton Ferdinand, Fabio da Silva and Ale Faurlin were replaced with the returning Ryan Nelsen, Nedum Onuoha and Samba Diakite.
For the first ten minutes, Queen’s Park Rangers competed with a Liverpool side whose form has been faltering of late. The home team enjoyed a fair share of early possession with both Stephane Mbia and Samba Diakite looking comfortable on the ball and Taarabt appearing keen and positive.
Then in the tenth minute the lively Luis Suarez received the ball from Jordan Henderson on the left. He took on Clint Hill and skipped past the defender rather too easily, and slotted the ball to the right of Cesar for the opening goal. Hill reacted angrily at himself, but the truth was he had been left wanting by a world-class striker demonstrating the best of his ability.
Meltdown. Suddenly the Hoops were thrown into disarray as they failed to get anywhere near Liverpool’s stylish attacking play. Five minutes later a long ball from Martin Skrtel was flicked on to Suarez. The striker played a neat one-two with Stewart Downing and evaded Armand Traore. The Rangers defender held up his hands in frustration as Suarez skipped away from him. The ball-in then met Raheem Sterling in the box and under pressure from Onuoha. However, the former R’s youngster managed to play the ball back across to Suarez who scooped the ball in the top of the net and above the sprawling Cesar.
Boos rang out across Loftus Road which was followed by chants of: “This is Embarrassing”. Further attempts by the home team to steady the ship were largely futile. Rangers were completely foxed by the Liverpool formation, unable to cope with the width provided by Sterling and Downing. Whilst those wingers were not seeing a lot of possession, they succeeded in pulling Onuoha and Traore wide which had the effect of yielding the freedom of W12 to the midfield trio of Henderson, Gerrard and Joe Allen.
Mbia and especially Diakite were astonishingly spectators in the middle of the park. Diakite’s positioning appeared suspect and seemed nowhere near the play. Mbia was more interested in trying to gain free kicks from ridiculous dives. This side of his game sullied his man of the match performance against West Brom. It was completely inappropriate in a game which was turning into a turkey shoot.
Time and time again QPR were ripped apart by Liverpool attacks, and in particular Traore was being constantly exposed. It was no surprise on 27 minutes when Liverpool took a quick corner whilst Rangers were napping. Downing passed to Gerrard who crossed for an unmarked Daniel Agger to head home. 3-0 didn’t flatter the visitors, and the mood of the R’s faithful was summed up by further booing and a match programme ejected from the Lower Loft in the direction of the home goal.
It was now damage limitation. Shaun Wright-Phillips moved from the left wing over to the right wing-back position. This helped to shore up the defence, but ensured that Rangers’ attacks were easily nullified. At the start of the second period, Derry came on for the ineffective Cisse, and this further helped to ensure a stalemate.
Liverpool had won the game by half-time and everyone knew it, including the players. The game limped on to its inevitable conclusion. QPR mustered only 34% of possession, and this summed up the gulf in class between the two sides.
R’s fans were able to take very few positives from the ninety minutes of football. It was an absolute stinker and one of the worst home performances seen at Loftus Road in recent memory. The only thing which can possibly lift the January blues for Rangers fans is the opening of the transfer window. It has the feel of ‘last throw of the dice’ for Harry Redknapp and the club.
Team: Cesar 6, Traore 5, Hill 5, Nelsen 6, Onuoha 6, Diakite 4 (Granero 6), Taarabt 6, Wright-Phillips 5 (Fabio 6), Mbia 5, Cisse 5 (Derry 6), Mackie 6
Subs Not Used: Green, Ferdinand, Faurlin, Hoilett
QPR MOM – Mackie. Really the whole team failed, but Jamie Mackie was as usual the man showing the most fight and passion for the shirt.
Liverpool MOM – Suarez. Painful as it is to say, the Uruguayan was scintillating in the first-half and marmalised a Rangers defence there for the taking.