|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Liverpool|
Wednesday, 21st March 2012 Kick-off 20:00
QPR set out on the hard road against Liverpool – full match preview
Wednesday, 21st Mar 2012 00:49 by Clive Whittingham
Having spurned the chance to win valuable points against so called more ‘beatable’ opposition QPR’s Premiership survival now rests on their ability to surprise the bigger clubs, starting with Liverpool this Wednesday night.
QPR (18th) v Liverpool (7th)
Barclays Premier League >>> Wednesday March 21, 2012 >>> Kick off 8pm >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Having, through a variety of convoluted and unlikely methods, blown a lengthy run of winnable matches QPR are certainly going to do survival the hard way if they’re going to do it at all this season. If Rangers are going to stay up chances are they’re going to need a result or two against teams you would never in a million years expect them to take points from.
Mark Hughes’ side has won once in the last 16 games through a combination of incompetence and bad luck and now QPR have ten games left, need to win at least four of them, and still have to play eight of the top ten teams. By any reasonable predictions they’re already down.
But there is a school of thought among the last few remaining optimists among the Rangers support that we will still escape relegation this season, because it would be typical of QPR to do so in this manner. Lose all the winnable games, blow all the “six pointers” and then survive anyway by giving the bigger teams a bloody nose. QPR have never done things the easy way, so maybe they’ll succeed the hard way again over the next couple of months.
Liverpool at home perhaps isn’t a bad place to start a run of games that could kindly be described as nightmarish. Despite their improvements under Kenny Dalglish and recent League Cup success Liverpool have had a troubled season in which they’ve made few friends over their handling of provocative striker Luis Suarez and his various transgressions and prior to last week’s derby win against Everton were actually in the bottom three of the Premiership form table with QPR and Wolves. This will be the third of four games they play inside a fortnight and since we clocked off at Bolton last Saturday they’ve played gruelling games with Everton and Stoke.
And history is on QPR’s side. It’s impossible to approach this game without harking back to a Saturday afternoon in 1989 when second from bottom Queens Park Rangers shocked the entire First Division in a match with second from top Liverpool at Loftus Road.
Then, as now, Rangers were on a dreadful run of form. Under the player-management of Trevor Francis they’d stuttered through their first few games with an opening day home win against Palace followed by three draws and two defeats. Francis himself inspired a 3-1 away win at Aston Villa with a mesmeric hat trick that is still remembered fondly to this day but his decision to fine Martin Allen for leaving the team hotel at Newcastle to attend the birth of his son the previous season had divided the camp and a run of seven matches without a win not only plunged the R’s into the drop zone but provoked an angry outburst from midfielder Nigel Spackman over Francis’ managerial techniques. In the wake of that Liverpool, the dominant force in English football at the time , came into the match having lost only one of the last 14 league meetings between the two including seven straight wins prior to this meeting. QPR hadn’t even scored against the Reds in four consecutive games and the stage hardly seemed set for that to change with injuries and poor morale enveloping Loftus Road and Francis himself injured, under the surgeon’s knife, and forced to select a team for the match from his hospital bed.
Francis donned his cheque jacket and aviator shades and took his seat at the front of the director’s box at Loftus Road more in hope than expectation for this one.
In the absence of Francis, and Colin Clarke, Mark Falco was returned to the attack from the start for the first time that season alongside Scottish striker Paul Wright, who scored goals for fun north of the border when the top Scottish division was less of a standing joke both before and after a brief spell with QPR that was cut short by homesickness. In midfield Spackman was replaced by a young Simon Barker alongside an ageing Peter Reid who spent most of the afternoon engaged in a competition to see who could kick who the most with Liverpool stalwart Steve McMahon. Rangers didn’t have a prayer and the signs looked ominous when Footballer of the Year elect John Barnes glided past desperate challenges from Reid and Barker before curling a shot over the bar.
If QPR wins against Liverpool were rare in the 1980s, then QPR penalties against them were almost non-existant. To be fair at the time you were more likely to step in rocking horse shit than find yourself facing Bruce Grobbelaar with a penalty kick regardless of who you played for – the Reds’ reputation with referees was very similar to that which Man Utd enjoy in the present day. So it was something of a surprise when referee John Martin first booked Ronnie Whelen for a wild hack on Andy Sinton wide on the QPR left and then, when that free kick had been cleared and subsequently lofted back into the penalty area, penalised Glenn Hysen for a meagre push on Mark Falco.
That gave Paul Wright the chance to hammer in the opening goal of the game, and his fifth of the season, just before the half hour mark. But the opening goal seemed only to inspire the visitors and when Barnes tempted a foolish lunge from Paul Parker moments later Liverpool had a penalty of their own and Barnes equalised with it himself. Normal service had been resumed, or so it seemed.
Hysen's uncomfortable afternoon at Falco’s hands was to continue and when the grey haired centre back flew in with a robust aerial challenge against the former Tottenham centre forward 30 yards from goal Martin had no choice but to award QPR another free kick. From such a distance few expected a shot, and indeed Grobbelaar constructed only a meagre three man wall which Simon Barker then became part of at Paul Wright’s request. The Scottish striker struck the ball hard and true, through the gap which Barker had vacated, and into the back of the Liverpool net via a hefty deflection off Steve McMahon’s back. Rangers were back in front, Dalglish sent on Jan Molby for Steve Nicol at half time.
QPR didn’t exactly carry the air of a team that believed they could hang on for a win in the second half and with Barnes to the fore Liverpool rather went to town on the Super Hoops initially. Only a wonderful save from a young David Seaman at point blank range as Ian Rush diverted McMahon’s header towards goal preserved the slender lead. But football can be a funny game sometimes and when Andy Sinton launched a purposeful run in Rangers’ first meaningful attack of the half he opened up space on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area for Falco to receive a pass, shift the ball out of his feet and then launch an unstoppable 20 yard drive across Grobbelaar and into the far bottom corner of the Liverpool net. Falco, something of a veteran when he eventually arrived at QPR after time with Spurs and Glasgow Rangers, is an often overlooked player in QPR history but he scored some vital and often spectacular goals during his time at Loftus Road.
Loftus Road was alive with belief for the first time, but within seconds the irrepressible Barnes had maruaded into the QPR penalty area and hammered a shot past Seaman into the top corner for his second of the game and ninth of the season. With half an hour still to play the prospects of a much needed three points seemed remote once again.
But the time started to tick away. Seaman saved bravely at the feet of first ray Houghton and then Rush in a Liverpool onslaught and Rangers did, eventually hang on. A tremendous roar greeted the final whistle and the abiding image of the game was Francis’ wife Helen racing down the steps to the front of the upper tier in South Africa Road, fur coat flowing behind her, to embrace her embattled husband in full view. Two games later, a defeat to Arsenal and a draw with basement side Millwall, he was out of a job.
Francis had subsequently signed Ray Wilkins to form a vastly experienced midfield pairing with Reid but was sacked as manager before he had a chance to field the England international. His assistant Don Howe took charge and guided QPR to a midtable finish. Liverpool’s wobble of four losses from five matches didn’t last, they won the league at a canter, nine points clear of second placed Aston Villa by the end.
It can be done, and in many ways it would be just like QPR to succeed now when we least expect them to.
Team News: Mark Hughes has Adel Taarabt back in contention after he missed the defeat to Bolton through injury. Luke Young is now also fully fit and ready to return but the back four has been chopped and changed all season and with no clean sheet in 19 matches now Hughes seems keen to mess with it as little as possible in the hope it might build some sort of understanding and cohesion. DJ Campbell has returned to full training following his hamstring tear but the games this week come too soon for him, and for Heidar Helguson who is seeing a specialist again this week to try and ascertain what is wrong with him and when he can play again.
Liverpool are set to continue on without Craig Bellamy and Glen Johnson. Bellamy, who scored at Loftus Road last season for Cardiff and almost joined Rangers in the summer, has sat out the last two games with an injury described only as a ‘niggle’ while Johnson hasn’t played since the League Cup final against Cardiff.
Elsewhere: It’s a bit of a catch up midweek session with a smattering of games involving teams with cup commitments elsewhere and league games stacking up. Bolton are certainly one of those but clearly that is a squad of players in no mood to take to the football field at the moment and nor should they be expected to – their game with Villa is off in the wake of the Fabrice Muamba tragedy at the weekend. Whether their next game, a colossal relegation six pointer and local derby at home to Blackburn on Saturday, goes ahead remains to be seen.
Blackburn, another team in trouble at the bottom, host Sunderland on Tuesday evening but Wednesday is more geared towards the top than the foot with Man City hosting Chelsea, Spurs playing at home to Stoke and Arsenal travelling to Everton.
Referee: Howard Webb was the referee at White Hart Lane on Saturday evening when Muamba fell to the ground and was subsequently taken off his fourth official duties on Sunday. He is still listed as the match official for our game with Liverpool and if he does go ahead with that appointment it will be his third QPR game of the season. Webb, who refereed our play off final defeat in Cardiff back in 2003, has so far taken charge of our defeats to Spurs and Man Utd. For his full QPR case file please click here.
QPR: QPR have the worst second half record of any team in the Premiership – losing 11, drawing 14 and winning just three second periods this season. If the league was decided on half time results QPR would be fourteenth with eight wins, eight draws and 11 defeats. Not surprisingly Rangers have lost the most points (15) from winning positions in the entire division. Other numbers that continue to tick over – one win in 16 matches now, no clean sheet for the last 19, five red cards in home games this season which is one off the Premiership record of six. Fully two months after he was ruled out for the rest of the season with injury, Alejandro Faurlin has finally been overtaken at the top of the Premiership's tackle count by Scott Parker – Faurlin committed 90 tackles with a 76% success rate, last week Scott Parker went up to 95 (69% successful) and Yohann Cabaye at Newcastle has 94 at 68%.
Liverpool: Liverpool have won their last two matches against Stoke and Everton at Anfield to ease a run of form that had seen them take just five points since the turn of the year – the joint worst haul in the top flight along with QPR and Wolves. Their league progress this season has been hampered by drawing eight of their 14 home league games and a lack of cutting edge up front has been responsible for that – Liverpool's top scorers in the league are Craig Bellamy and Luis Suarez who have just six each, Heidar Helguson top scores for struggling QPR with eight despite not playing for the last three months. Seven of their eight defeats so far this season have come away from home including defeats at Stoke, Fulham and Bolton . They have lost five of their last seven away matches, drawing one of the others at Wigan . QPR are the only newly promoted team they have beaten so far this season.
Prediction: May as well start predicting again as my abstinence didn't bring about any great improvements on the field. I have two scorelines in mind for this. The first, a 1-0 QPR win with Djibril Cisse scoring and a heroic backs-to-the-wall effort on one of those nights at Loftus Road . The other, a par for the course 2-0 defeat. Sadly I think I know which is more likely.
Liverpool 2-0, 8/1 best price with William Hill.
QPR: Liverpool: Betting: Prediction: Tweet @loftforwords Pictures – Action Images
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