Liverpool were as good as QPR were bad during a first half that the visitors completely dominated. The London side, low on confidence following a disappointing season and seemingly uninspired by new manager Harry Redknapp, were embarrassingly poor and, in the words of Bill Shankly, were lucky to get nil. Their opponents, on the other hand, oozed class and were in the ascendancy from the first to the final whistle.
Luis Suarez, in particular, appeared highly motivated and determined to win the game almost single-handedly, although, thankfully, for once he didn't lack support up front. On his return to his former employers Sterling performed well, while Downing continued his recent run of form and Henderson took advantage of a rare starting opportunity.
The first sight of goal Suarez had saw the number seven's shot punched clear by Julio Cesar. It wasn't long, though, until the Uruguayan was beating the goalkeeper for fun. On ten minutes Henderson fed Suarez, who had cleverly worked himself some space before gliding effortlessly past his marker and finding the bottom corner with consummate and classy ease.
|Suarez slides past the defence and opens the scoring|
By this stage Liverpool were coasting and centre backs Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, who had been hassled endlessly only days earlier away to Stoke City, now had their cigars out and their feet up due to QPR's utter inability to test them. The Dane did put the Sunday papers down for one moment, though, to add to the Reds' lead minutes before the half hour mark. A short corner was played to Gerrard, whose whipped cross was headed home by the towering Agger.
|Agger watches his header beat Cesar|
In response, Adel Taarabt, arguably the hosts' only bright spark, shot straight at Reina and then wide of the target. It was the sum total of a woeful first half display from a team seemingly destined to be enduring wet Wednesday night trips to Huddersfield next season.
After the break, Liverpool, satisfied with three points and three goals, took their foot off the gas while QPR improved a little, although not enough to mount a hugely improbably comeback. They may have managed to begin their revival by recovering from two goals behind at home to the Reds last season, but there was no prospect of them repeating that remarkable feat.
Their lack of professionalism was also amplified when Stephane M'Bia was rightly booked by referee Anthony Taylor for diving. QPR's only vaguely positive movement came when Armand Traore's drilled cross flashed dangerously across the face of goal. Apart from that, their only second half achievement was preventing a cricket score.
The only causes of frustration for Kopites were the refusal to substitute key players like Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, who could clearly benefit from a rest during a hectic festive fixture list, especially when the match was evidently already won, and an injury that could rule Enrique out for several weeks.
Nonetheless, Liverpool could be extremely pleased with their afternoon's work, which elevated them to ninth in the table, eight points off fourth and only five behind fifth-placed Arsenal, who admittedly have a game in hand. If Luis Suarez can remain fit and keep up this form then there's every chance the Reds will enjoy a much improved second half of the season.
Key to their progress now is discovering how to remove the inherent inconsistency Liverpool have been suffering from. The roller-coaster ride may be enjoyable in a perverse way, but consistent and continued improvement is both preferable and possible.
Trying to instill some consistency in his side is likely to plague Rodgers more than any virus, but if he wants to remain in the Anfield hot seat then he's got to find a way to snap his troops out of their yo-yo like form.
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