QPR 2-3 Liverpool
A frantic finale in west London, and a fortuitous three points for Liverpool after centre-back pairing Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker both put their own net.
"I'm still in shock," skipper Steven Gerrard said afterwards. "We were very lucky and would have had no complaints if we'd come away with nothing. It was a very stop-start performance but we hung in there."
A view echoed by boss Brendan Rodgers, who admitted: "I thought we were fortunate. I like to win, and I like to win in a way we work on a daily basis and that was nowhere near what I would expect from a team of mine. I have to applaud the team and their character, we still kept going."
The Reds laboured in the first half at Loftus Road, and few would have forseen them returning to Merseyside victorious after the bottom-dwelling R’s – and Bobby Zamora in particular – caused all sorts of problems with their route one gameplan. And they could have been out of sight by the break; Charlie Austin threatening 3 times in the opening eight minutes while Leroy Fer rattled the bar twice.
Fears that the home side may pay for their profligacy were realised when Dunne notched his 10th Premier League own goal, and it looked like being the winner until all hell broke loose in the final seven minutes. Liverpool had struggled to deal with QPR’s crosses all afternoon and crumbled twice to Eduardo Vargas.
But the visitors had posed a constant threat on the counter-attack, and having squandered several second half opportunities they finally made a couple count in devastating fashion.
Philippe Coutinho cut inside and curled an effort into the far corner via a flick off Caulker. And then with Rangers still revelling in Vargas’ second equaliser and smelling a winner themselves, Raheem Sterling streaked away following a poor Rangers free-kick and saw his pass deflect in off a distraught Caulker.
“You don't always get what you deserve, we didn't today, we deserved [something], and to get beat was an absolute injustice really," said Harry Redknapp. "We get a free-kick, there's a minute to go, I thought he [Fer] was going to have a shot. He's in shooting range, if it goes in great, if it goes in the crowd we can organise behind it, but suddenly everyone's getting into the box. We're just waiting to get done on the counter."
Rodgers reserved high praise for Sterling, whose physical state had been in the spotlight since allegedly claiming he was too tired for play for his country in Estonia.
The former QPR trainee was no slouch in the second half, though. It was his quick-thinking which led to Dunne’s own goal and pass which forced Caulker’s.
Sterling ended the game having made the most attacking third passes (21/27), completed the most take-ons (6/9) and made the most ball recoveries (11), while he won all 5 of his tackles.
“I thought he was outstanding,” said Rodgers. “His cleverness and brightness for the first goal - I always say to the players that the best players come alive when the game goes dead, whether it's a throw-in or in the game. The bright players come alive and he spotted it and played it early.
“Raheem's pace got in behind for the third, he crosses the ball and if Caulker didn't get the own goal, then Balotelli probably gets the goal. The kid is a big talent and you saw today he was exceptional."
Balotelli had another game to forget, making it just 1 goal in 9 appearances since arriving from Milan. He was lurking with intent for Dunne and Caulker’s calamities, but was guilty of an awful miss shortly before Liverpool’s opener and hit the target with just 2 of his 7 efforts. He also won 0 of his 6 aerial duels, 5 of which came in a first half where he was easily contained by QPR’s backline.
"The most important thing for the boy is his work, he's doing his best,” said Rodgers. "He's seen as a direct replacement for Luis Suarez. I said before, Luis was irreplaceable, a real world-class talent. That's not what's being asked of Mario... he’s a different type of player. He wants to improve and it'll happen for him.”
- Harry Redknapp has won just 5 of his 33 Premier League games in charge of QPR (D10 L18).
- Under Redknapp, QPR have lost 7and won 0 (D2) of their 9 Premier League games on a Sunday, losing each of their last 6.
- Liverpool have gone 48 Premier League games without a goalless draw, the longest current run of any side.
- Richard Dunne has now scored 10 own goals in the Premier League, making him the first to reach double figures.
- Leroy Fer has struck the woodwork 3 times so far this season, the most in the Premier League.
- QPR have yet to score in the opening 30 minutes this season, a joint Premier-League-low with Newcastle.
- Liverpool have kept just 1 clean sheet in their last 14 Premier League matches.
- 5 of QPR's 6 Premier League goals have come via set-pieces this season.
- Mario Balotelli has scored just 1 goal in his last 22 Premier League appearances, despite attempting 73 shots (including blocked) in these games.
- This is the first time in Premier League history that Liverpool have benefitted from 2 own goals in the same game.