Liverpool fans are thankful Steven Gerrard isn’t quite ready to pass the torch to a new generation of Anfield heroes.
Liverpool topped Queens Park Rangers 2-1 in Saturday’s Premier League game. Gerrard scored the game-winning goal on a late header to lead host Liverpool past QPR in his penultimate game at the stadium in which he played home games for his entire 17-year career.
Gerrard helped Liverpool earn a much-needed win, which ended a three-game barren run in all competitions. With three games remaining in the 2014-15 season, Liverpool now is in good position to finish fifth in the Premier League standings and retains slight hope of finishing one position higher.
The result will please Reds everywhere, but Liverpool’s performance against relegation-threatened QPR left as much to be desired as recent outings, which didn’t end in celebrations. On paper, Liverpool should have been able to overrun the Premier League’s worst defense, despite its admittedly spotty form. The Reds labored to victory, instead, and continue to face questions about its direction, as the season nears its conclusion.
Liverpool had advantages in both possession and territory from start to finish. Liverpool passed at a high-enough tempo and pressed with the requisite intensity required to carve open QPR’s defense in the opening stages. Manager Brendan Rodgers’ decision to start midfielder Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert paid early dividends, as Liverpool attacked with more determination and creativity than it has in recent outings.
Philippe Coutinho rewarded Liverpool for its dominance by scoring the opening goal in the 19th minute. The Brazilian received Lambert’s pass with far too much time and space in QPR’s penalty area and calmly curled his shot past goalkeeper Robert Green. Coutinho’s goal-scoring ways against QPR continued.
3 - Philippe Coutinho has scored in all three of his Premier League games against Queens Park Rangers. Pleasant.—
(@OptaJoe) May 02, 2015
However, the frailties which have prevented Liverpool from cruising past opponents this season remain for all to see. QPR attacked when the Reds lost their defensive shape and focus, but goalkeeper Simon Mignolet kept the visitors at bay while his teammates worked through the game’s rough patches.
Raheem Sterling’s astonishing miss early in the second half highlighted Liverpool’s ongoing goal-scoring difficulties. Leroy Fer’s game-tying goal in the 73rd minute had a similar effect for Liverpool’s vulnerabilities from set pieces as Sterling’s gaffe did for its attacking play.
QPR defender Nedum Onuoha appeared to have bailed out Liverpool five minutes later when he dragged down Martin Skrtel inside his own penalty area. The referee awarded Liverpool a penalty kick, which most observers expected Gerrard to convert as he so often does. Gerrard has scored 14 times from the spot in the last two seasons, but the impressive Green denied him a 15th by saving the Liverpool captain’s spot kick.
9 - Steven Gerrard has failed from the penalty spot nine times in PL history. Only Shearer (11) & Sheringham (10) have more. Spurned.—
(@OptaJoe) May 02, 2015
But Onuoha gave Liverpool yet another lifeline in the 82nd minute when he was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. Coutinho set up Gerrard’s dramatic winner five minutes later by lofting a corner kick into QPR’s penalty area for Gerrard, who rose above two hapless defenders and thundered his header past Green.
Liverpool’s win cut Manchester United’s lead in the standings to four points, but the Red Devils have a game in hand. UEFA Champions League qualification remains a longshot for the Reds, but they tightened their grip on a potential berth in next season’s UEFA Europa League.
The place in next season’s secondary European competition ultimately could prove to be one of Gerrard’s parting gifts to Liverpool.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@LivEchoLFC
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