Sunday, 3 May 2015

Late Gerrard header rescues Reds against Rs

Steven Gerrard saved Liverpool with a last gasp winner in front of the Kop for perhaps the final time as the Reds beat QPR 2-1 at Anfield yesterday. It was a fairy-tale ending to an otherwise unremarkable end-of-season encounter, which began with Coutinho opening the scoring before Fer levelled for the visitors.

Stevie seemed to have missed his chance to clinch the points when he missed from the spot on 77 minutes, but, as it turned out, thankfully he wasn’t to be denied his opportunity to rescue the Reds one last time.

In the absence of the injured Balotelli, Rickie Lambert was finally handed a starting berth, while Lallana operated behind the former Southampton striker alongside Sterling and Coutinho as he made his first start since returning from injury.

QPR began the better and had the ball in the back of the net only one minute in, as Fer bundled home a corner kick in front of the Kop. Fortunately, the ball had already gone out of play so the goal was disallowed.

However, it was a big let off for a sluggish Liverpool side that started slowly, allowing Caulker, Fer and Henry to have further goalscoring opportunities which they thankfully squandered by failing to hit the target.

QPR’s confidence is at rock bottom levels, though, as they continue to wage a losing battle against relegation. Their captain didn’t help them out, either, as Joey Barton gave the ball away twice in quick succession, allowing Gerrard to drag wide and Lambert to shoot straight at Green before Coutinho netted the opener on 19 minutes.

Lambert squared the ball to the talented Brazilian, who, in his infamous manner, cut back onto his right foot before curling the ball beyond the diving Green.

Coutinho is a world class magician
The number 10 has now scored in all three of his appearances against QPR, and continues to look a cut above his attacking teammates. The likes of Lallana and Sterling are undoubtedly good players who have a vital role to play for the Reds going forward, but they aren’t world class like Philippe Coutinho. If he keeps on developing at his current pace then there’s no reason why he can’t have as big an impact at Liverpool as Luis Suarez.

The Merseysiders were on top for the rest of the half, but never really got out of second gear as the game had a typical end-of-season feel to it. Skrtel headed Gerrard’s corner off target, the skipper shot wide and Sterling scored but was flagged offside. Apart from that, it was fairly uneventful stuff at Anfield.

Five minutes after the restart Lallana squandered a good chance to double Liverpool’s lead, but he snatched at his shot and the ball fizzed wide at the near post. Even worse, Sterling wasted a glorious goalscoring opportunity on 54 minutes, as, Ronny Rosenthal-esque, he skied his shot into the Kop from yards out when all he had to do was tap home. I keep on saying it, but Sterling simply has to start scoring those before the club can even consider paying him in excess of £100k a week.

Jordon Ibe arrived on the scene with just over 20 minutes remaining and made an instant impact, getting to the by-line and cutting the ball back for Lambert, who disappointingly missed the ball. It eventually fell for Gerrard, but his shot was deflected behind for a corner, which was headed firmly goalwards by Lovren but Green dealt with it quite well.

At the other end, QPR were also enjoying their best spell of the match. Sandro’s effort was blocked by Lovren while Mignolet easily saved Phillips’ shot from the rebound, as Chris Ramsey’s men came back into the game and shocked the home crowd by equalising on 72 minutes.

Barton’s right wing corner found Fer and the 25-year old Dutchman volleyed past Mignolet before celebrating by revealing a shirt with a message of support for teammate Rio Ferdinand, whose wife Rebecca Ellison sadly lost her battle with cancer this weekend.

Fer shows his support for the Ferdinand family
QPR’s resurgence was pleasing brief, however, and they quickly self-destructed, as Nedum Onuoha soon conceded a spot kick after dragging down Skrtel in the box. Green frustratingly guessed right to deny Gerrard from 12 yards, but QPR couldn’t capitalise on the reprieve their keeper offered.

First, Onuoha was sent off for a second bookable offence after fouling Ibe. Then, Gerrard produced the goods to steal the points for the home side. Finding space in the penalty area, Stevie swooped to superbly head home Coutinho’s left wing corner, to the absolute delight of the vast majority inside Anfield.

This photo is just fantastic
It was great to see Stevie peeling off in celebration of a last gasp winner in front of the Kop one last time before he leaves for the States, and he received a magnificent reception when he then left the field of play to be replaced by Lucas.

He’s inevitably not the same player that he was 10 years ago, but he’ll always be one of, if not the, best Liverpool player ever, and certainly the player I’ve most enjoyed watching during my 15 years following the club.

Unfortunately, his goal probably won’t count for much because the Reds’ rubbish form has almost certainly cost them Champions League qualification already, even though fourth placed Manchester United have now lost three Premier League games in a row without scoring. Frustratingly, if Liverpool had beaten West Brom and Hull, then they’d be sitting in fourth right now.

I’d prefer not to think about that now, though; revelling in Stevie’s winner in his penultimate match at Anfield is much more fun!


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