Scott checks in on a scrappy contest:
Liverpool limped to 3 points at Loftus Road on Saturday, courtesy of two QPR own goals, after stumbling through yet another uninspired performance. Mario Balotelli, in particular, was underwhelming despite padding his attempted shots stats. And Brendan Rodgers' attempt to push Steven Gerrard higher up the pitch missed as badly as the Balotelli shot that knocked the bejeezus out of the woman in the 42nd row.
Despite their relative positions in the standings, it was the home side who had the more and better chances throughout the first half as Gerrard rarely touched the ball and the rest of the squad grasped for creativity. The lone creator was not at all a surprise - Raheem Sterling. His penetrating runs and speed with the ball were the only dangers to unsettle a QPR team who otherwise had a relatively comfortable first half as they rattled the cross bar on two occasions and otherwise showed the visitors whose house it was. Nothing short of pure luck and a goal-line, studs-up lunge by Glen Johnson, followed by a goal-line clearance by Martin Skrtl, kept the score level at the interval.
But, true to form, Rodgers made adjustments at halftime and Gerrard dropped deeper from the second-half kickoff. That led to more possession by the Reds, especially in the offensive half, and a handful of opportunities as they began to press for the winner. The pressure ultimately led to an unlikely scorer - Richard Dunne. It was Sterling, again, who was causing the fits for QPR that resulted in the free kick that was quickly taken, crossed by Johnson and directed toward goal by Dunne who, like most of his team mates, was caught napping.
Then came 8 of the most exciting, roller coastery (Webster will be receiving my petition to make that a word) minutes I have ever witnessed. First QPR equalized in the 87th minute before Phillipe Coutinho seemingly put the game out of reach in extra time. But, yet again, QPR leveled and all seemed to go dark when Liverpool conceded a set piece for what would surely be the last play of the game. QPR dinked the ball into the area and Lieverpool cleared and countered with speed. It was as if referee Phil Dowd just wanted to see what would happen, whistle in hand. And what happened was yet another QPR own goal to gift a very lucky Liverpool side the three points that propelled them to 5h place in the standings, despite stinking up most of their recent games.
Jose Enrique started the game and showed very quickly how out of synch he is after his long injury layoff. Careless in possession and shaky on defense, the normally solid Spaniard made me nervous all day. Simon Mignolet had several key stops but it was he who flapped at the ball that fell to Leroy Fer who, fortunately for the Belgium, could only ping the crossbar. Balotelli was simply awful all afternoon. Save for the flick that put Gerrard through in the waning moments of the first half, the Italian was so bad, selfish, and non-contributing that he wasn't merely unhelpful, he was counterproductive. Shooting every time he could see the goal over the horizon, often still managing to put it over, he nearly single-handedly sucked the life out of LIverpool's offense and it was wonder that Brendan left him on the whole game.
This is farlieonfootie for October 20.
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