Liverpool bounced back from the disappointment of defeat against Fulham by ending their winless streak at Anfield on Saturday. A goal in the early moments of the second half from Luis Suárez was all it took to send Q.P.R. packing without a point, with both managed effusive in their praise of the Uruguayan after the match.
The Reds came into the game having drawn each of their last four outings at Anfield, including particularly disappointing encounters with Q.P.R.’s fellow promoted sides, Norwich and Swansea. Added to the sense of injustice and disappointment that still lingered from the defeat at Craven Cottage, there was a realisation that gaining three points against Neil Warnock’s men was crucial for their ambitions.
For much of the game it had the feeling of ‘another one of those days’, with chances created and not taken, a goalkeeper playing at the top of his game and a late period in which the visitors looked dangerous. One moment rose above that, however, just as Suárez rose above the Q.P.R. defence to head home Charlie Adam’s cross in the 47th minute.
For their part Q.P.R., led by Joey Barton – who got a rapturous reception from the Kop for his vocal backing of the Justice campaign – played a good part in the game, but had to rely on the superb performance of reserve goalkeeper Radek Cerny to keep them in the match. Cerny added his name to the likes of Vorm, Hart, Ruddy and De Gea who have all been on top form at Anfield this season.
As has been the case so often at Anfield this season, Liverpool began the game on the front foot. Two corners inside the first two minutes came to nothing, though some neat interplay between Suárez, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodríguez saw the Argentinian with half a chance to get a shot away on goal, which was blocked by Luke Young who sent the ball spinning out for another corner.
Without the suspended Jay Spearing, Liverpool decided against playing a dedicated holding midfielder – there had been some suggestion that Daniel Agger could be pushed out of defence to fill the role – instead partnering Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam in the centre, though they were often supplemented in numbers by Maxi, who played a narrow role on the left side of midfield.
The game soon settled down with Liverpool dominating possession and Q.P.R. looking to hit it up to Jay Bothroyd whenever they did gain the ball. The former Cardiff man was dealt with well by Martin Skrtel throughout the game, however, as the Slovakian continued his impressive form, justifying continued selection ahead of Jamie Carragher.
In the 10th minute game the Reds’ first real chance, and it was one that Suárez perhaps should have put away. A quick pass from Adam put Kuyt into space down the right, and he found support in Stewart Downing. The former Aston Villa man, played wide right throughout the game, exchanged passes with Glen Johnson then curled in a cross which Suárez met, seven yards out and unmarked, but could only head straight at Cerny.
With two cultured passers of the ball in the centre of the pitch, Liverpool weren’t finding it difficult to control the game, and for the most part Q.P.R. were chasing their shadows. Kuyt and Suárez were showing a good understanding up front as well, as evidenced with a crisp exchange of passes in the 12th minute which saw the latter flash a shot across goal, hoping for a nick off Cerny which would have taken it in.
Suárez was, as Warnock alluded to after the match, continually causing problems for the Q.P.R. defence, and thought he might have had a shout for a penalty in the 21st minute when he went to ground under pressure from Alejandro Faurlín, but it looked too much a case of a striker backing into a defender for referee Lee Mason to award a spot kick.
The Reds continued to dominate, their passing a movement impressive, and on the half hour it created a great opportunity for Maxi. Kuyt took possession five yards inside the Q.P.R. half, and with four defenders far too concerned about Suárez’s run peeling off to the left, he slid a pass inside, releasing Maxi through the centre. The Argentinian opened his body and aimed for the corner, but Cerny was down quickly to his left and parried the ball away before the clearance was completed by his scrambling defence.
There was time for one final close shave, the visiting side again escaping with their goal in tact when Suárez was again guilty of a miss. A strong and direct run from Downing on the right had opened up the Q.P.R. defence, and when he slid the ball to Suárez, the Uruguayan showed a deft touch to try and lift a shot over Cerny. That was parried and the ball fell back to the Liverpool striker, but with Kuyt unmarked and waiting at the back post, he tried to thrash a shot home but had his head in his hands and it sliced well wide.
Frustration was probably the best word to characterise the fans’ feeling at half time, though there will certainly have been a strong element pleased with the quality of possession and build up play that Liverpool had put on show. It was that old foe of not putting away their chances that was biting them, though that didn’t take much of the second half to rectify.
There were only forty-four seconds of the half gone when Suárez won a corner off Anton Ferdinand, and only sixty-seven had passed when his deft header found the corner of the net. Adam’s corner had been cleared back out to the Scot, who cut inside and floated in a cross on his weaker right foot. Q.P.R.’s marking was poor and Suárez was, for the second time in the match, allowed a free header on the edge of the six yard box and this time he made no mistake, guiding it beyond Cerny and into the corner of the net.
The visitors suffered a further blow when they lost Ferdinand to a hamstring injury just two minutes later, sending on Bradley Orr in his place. For the next wee while Q.P.R. had a better foothold in the game, a likely reaction to Liverpool slightly easing off the pressure having got their goal, and they began to pass the ball well with Faurlín in midfield dictating the play, but they failed to create anything really meaningful, and Liverpool remained dangerous with Kuyt flashing a shot just wide of the post.
Liverpool began to build the superiority once more, and on the hour it was only a fantastic save from Cerny which denied them their second goal. Suárez, after his first attempt at a cross was blocked, turned Danny Gabbidon inside out and laid a pass back to Maxi, who shot first time towards the corner. Cerny reacted quickly, however, and got down just in time to flick Maxi’s shot onto the post and behind for a corner, denying the fan favourite the chance to extend his impressive scoring run.
Maxi had another chance in the 67th minute, but once again Cerny – Q.P.R.’s third choice goalkeeper – was on hand to deny him. After Adam had burst forward and slipped a pass to Suárez, he teamed up with his South American colleague to bamboozle the visiting defence, the chance to shoot falling to Maxi, but Cerny stood big to get in the block.
As the game passed into its final twenty minutes, Q.P.R. began to press forward in search of an equaliser. Buoyed by Liverpool’s inability to add to their opening effort, the visitors sniffed an unlikely point and began to exert some pressure.
They won a number of corners, one of which Pepe Reina had to claw from under his own crossbar, and had a penalty shout turned down when Faurlín claimed to have been felled by a high boot from Skrtel, but Mason was having none of his appeals. They had enough time for one final chance, Armand Traoré’s cross from the left finding Orr at the back post, but his header nicked off José Enrique and fell harmlessly wide of the post.
Indeed Q.P.R. came closer in injury time to extending Liverpool’s lead for them. A wonderful run by Craig Bellamy, on in place of Maxi, saw the Welshman race into the penalty area. When he looked to pull the ball back for Suárez, Shaun Wright-Phillips dived in to cut it out, but diverted the ball onto the underside of Cerny’s crossbar. Thankfully for the visitors it bounced away to safety, but it mattered little as Mason’s final whistle sounded soon after.
93 – Maxi Rodríguez was Liverpool’s most accurate passer in the game, completing 41 out of 44 open play passes for an accuracy of 93%.
433 – Liverpool completed 433 passes during the game (out of an attempted 529), nearly double the 232 that Q.P.R. managed.
19 – At this stage last season Liverpool had amassed just 19 points. Currently they have 26.
32 – Steward Downing has created 32 chances this season (an average of 2.13 per game) including 5 against Q.P.R.. At such a rate he would create 81 chances over the course of a season, 4 more than he managed in his much heralded 2010/11 campaign with Aston Villa.
“We did miss some chances, yes, but the goalkeeper saved a lot of them too.
“Do I feel the need to go out and do something about that? Aye, whichever side comes along here next, we’ll ask them to come without a ‘keeper. That’s the best way to do it, isn’t it?
“Irrespective of what I say, it’s not going to stop speculation we are going out in January to sign Joe Bloggs up front, or whoever. I don’t need to say anything.
“For us it was a fantastic team performance. We are quite happy.
“I trust the players implicitly when it comes to scoring, implicitly.
“They continued to get in there on goal, and even with the ‘keeper having a good day, they didn’t drop their heads. They must be enjoying what they are doing, to continue playing like that, and creating chances like that.
“One day, creating chances like that, we are going to get a load…or we are going to be garbage, and win 1-0. And I think that will do us.” Kenny Dalglish trusts his players to get the goals Liverpool need.
“For all of us it is important to score a goal but especially for Luis, who played really well. It was good to see him scoring again.
“He is just focusing on the game and he is happy with all the support he gets from the club, players, manager and his own fans.
“This is the Premier League so they are trying to do everything to stop you and the better you are the more they try to stop you – and Luis is a really good player.
“But that is football and he knows that and he is a great professional and is just focusing on his job – that is what he does in training and in the game.
“Luis has done great so far and he is a great player.” Dirk Kuyt has been impressed with Luis Suárez.
“I think he is unplayable. He’s so strong, I didn’t realise how strong he was for a small player. I love him. I’m a big Liverpool fan and to be on the same pitch as him was a pleasure.
“It’s mixed emotions for me. I’m disappointed with the result, but on personal level, it’s a dream come true. I’ve dreamed about this day for years.
“I think it’s the number one fixture the lads look forward to. It’s disappointing to come away with nothing, but I don’t think many sides will come away from Anfield with anything this season.
“Liverpool played very well, they are just so dangerous. At the end maybe we could have nicked a point, but if you look at the whole match Liverpool could have scored a lot more. Our goalkeeper played very well today.” Boyhood Liverpool fan Bradley Orr considers Suárez ‘unplayable’ and fulfilled a lifelong dream in stepping out onto the Anfield pitch.
While it may not have been the simple victory that we were hoping for, there is no question that Liverpool thoroughly deserved their three points. They were by far the dominant side in the game, and had it not been for the excellent goalkeeping of Radek Cerny could easily have had four or five – a scoreline which would not have flattered them. The three points will hopefully put the Reds back on track to a successful month and see them keep up their battle for a top four finish.
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