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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Queens Park Rangers 3 Liverpool FC 2: Reds slump to defeat after late comeback by QPR

EVEN for a season full of ups and downs, this was a desperate blow to take for Liverpool FC. There have been two sides to this Liverpool team this season and both made an appearance at Loftus Road last night. With 13 minutes left on the clock Kenny Dalglish’s men were cruising. This had been the Reds who clinched the Carling Cup and had secured their passage back to Wembley in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The impressive Liverpool who demolished Everton and showed real character to overcome Stoke. Playing with a swagger, they led 2-0 and should have been out of sight such was their dominance against lowly Queens Park Rangers. This should have been a night about an unlikely hero after defender Sebastian Coates opened his Anfield account with a stunning acrobatic volley. This should have been a tale about how his fellow countryman Luis Suarez mercilessly terrorised a team heading towards relegation. And how the Reds maintained momentum following back-to-back wins. Yet from the jaws of victory they somehow managed to grab a galling defeat. Out of nowhere the Reds’ backbone deserted them. Suddenly, they morphed into the team who meekly surrendered at places like Tottenham, Bolton and Sunderland. It wasn’t just careless, it was embarrassing as first Shaun Derry pulled one back and then former Reds striker Djibril Cisse nodded them level. The defending was shambolic. Then in stoppage time the nightmare was complete as Jose Enrique’s horrific blunder gifted Jamie Mackie the chance to slot the winner past Pepe Reina. It was the first time Liverpool had lost after being two goals ahead in a league game since Leeds beat them 4-3 in 2000. Cup success can’t mask the fact that the Reds’ league form has been unacceptable. They have won just three out of 13 games since mid-December and are a massive 13 points off the fourth spot they targeted last August. Liverpool have repeatedly failed to kill teams off and this was another one for their collection. Early on they had threatened to run riot. Their passing and movement carved QPR open almost at will but a finishing touch deserted them. Dalglish’s side should have led inside four minutes. Suarez ran clear and had time to pick his spot but fired too close to keeper Paddy Kenny. Martin Skrtel then saw his goal-bound header from Stewart Downing’s corner blocked by Joey Barton. Steven Gerrard pulled the strings with Dirk Kuyt and Downing getting forward in support of Suarez. Downing burst through but dallied and allowed Shaun Derry to get back and make a last-ditch tackle. QPR struggled to get out of their own half and the home fans’ frustration continued to grow. Remarkably, the Reds forced 10 corners in the opening 20 minutes but none were made to count. One Gerrard delivery was met by Suarez but his header was blocked and Kuyt was denied from the rebound. A combination of injuries and suspensions have severely limited the amount of time Gerrard and Suarez have played together. But the growing understanding which ripped Everton shreds in the derby was once again evident.

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