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The Day at Loftus Road: Liverpool 3, QPR 2


Paul Gilham

Liverpool won in the final seconds of a match that saw four goals in the final eight minutes. We've come to expect madness from this side, but it reached a new level today.

Liverpool struggled mightily in the first half, as they passed with uncharacteristic sloppiness and committed numerous defensive mistakes. However, they survived until the intermission with the score still knotted at 0-0.

In the 9th minute, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson were slow to react to a loose ball and Charlie Austin nearly made them pay as his initial shot was saved by Simon Mignolet and his second effort only found the side netting. Liverpool's continued lethargic play and lack of ball control allowed the atmosphere in Loftus Road to swell, and in turn QPR became more confident with their attacking movements.

QPR pushed play into the Reds half and kept it there for large chunks of time as Bobby Zamora put in a brilliant shift as a hold up striker. The hosts once again came close to an opener when Leroy Fer made a late run into the penalty area to meet a Zamora cross, but he turned his shot into the crossbar from point blank range.

On the other end of the pitch Raheem Sterling looked excellent and made a habit out of popping up in space, but his attacking teammates weren't up to his high standard. Mario Balotelli floundered and took some ill advised long shots with players around him in favorable positions, and Steven Gerrard struggled to make much of an impact in a more advanced role.

Fer was denied by the bar for a second time when he headed a looping cross from Zamora against the woodwork in the 34th minute. Glen Johnson was able to clear the ensuing scramble off of the line and Liverpool limped into the intermission level but clearly inferior.

The Reds were noticeably better to begin the second half, although there were still underlying warning signs that QPR could find a goal. Zamora began to wear out and Sandro was forced off with an injury, both of which loosened QPR's grip on the game.

After some sustained possession for Liverpool, Adam Lallana broke free in the box and his left-footed shot rebounded straight to Balotelli who had an open net to aim at. Balotelli proceeded to hit the ball over the bar, and his bad day became even worse.

Brendan Rodgers introduced Philippe Coutinho and Joe Allen in the 66th minute, which made a huge impact on the result of the match. Before the subs could even settle in though Raheem Sterling won a free kick that Liverpool took quickly on a short pass to Glen Johnson down the right wing whose subsequent cross was tapped into the net by Richard Dunne for a horrific own goal.

The match looked bound for a dull 1-0 finish with Liverpool in general control through the play of Sterling and Coutinho, but then the final eight minutes went and happened. Eduardo Vargas, a second half substitute, scored an equalizer after waltzing past Jose Enrique in the 87th minute. Coutinho then scored a beautiful curled goal to put Liverpool ahead 2-1, but Vargas responded by heading in from the near post on a corner.

To seal one of the most dramatic games in recent memory, Coutinho played a sublime through ball to Sterling whose cross was bundled into the net by Steven Caulker. Liverpool win 3-2 and we'll remember it for a long time.