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Another late goal conceded all but condemns QPR - report
Sunday, 3rd May 2015 20:40 by Dave Thomas

Another late goal, another 2-1 defeat, Liverpool the beneficiaries this time and QPR seem certain to be playing second tier football next season now. AKUTR’s editor Dave Thomas reports from Anfield.

It was all too predictable really. Under four minutes left on the clock, plus stoppage time. Rangers back on level terms, deservedly so given the respective league position of the two sides. A morale-boosting point not quite in the bag yet - but getting closer with every passing minute.

Add in to that equation a very average Liverpool team unable to add to the one goal that had opened the scoring just shy of the 20-minute mark, and giving Rob Green and a solid enough QPR defence, even after the dismissal of Onuoha, less to worry about than either West Brom or Aston Villa had (even West Ham, come to that).

Finally, two moments to get the away support celebrating. Firstly, Leroy Fer’s decisive finish when connecting with Joey Barton’s corner, for 1-1 – just about the first time a QPR corner had cleared the first defender. Secondly, and cheered just as wildly in one small corner of Anfield, Green’s fine save from Gerrard’s penalty.

It all pointed to a hard-fought draw, (let’s be honest here) against most expectations. One that still probably wouldn’t be enough to preserve Premier League status, but might - just might - have given everyone a bit more hope for next week’s trip to (gulp) Manchester City. And after that? Well, who knows…

Except, of course, we all do. Know our fate, that is. Even in the unlikely event of three straight wins before the season runs out on us, 36 points almost certainly won’t be enough. Not now.

And in the final analysis, there will be one overwhelming factor in a relegation that, apart from a midweek trip to Sunderland and back-to-back games in the West Midlands last month, has been like pulling teeth.

It’s that games last 90 minutes, not 85. That fact is what took us up 12 months ago. The same fact is what, above all else, is now sending us back down.

With the clock showing 85 minutes, Rangers were looking comfortable. It would be stretching it to say Liverpool, following that penalty miss by Gerrard, had settled for a point but that was the way the game was heading. All Rangers needed to do was defend pretty much as they’d done up until then. But then that has been a familiar story this season.

Instead a Liverpool corner wasn’t defended properly. There were enough hooped shirts in and around the six-yard box to have done so, but it was a player in red who connected with the ball, powering his header past a helpless Rob Green. And that player was… of course, naturally, inevitably Gerrard.

It was cruel. It was costly. It was demoralising. It was… well, that’s where I came in on this report: it was so frustratingly predictable. In those final few minutes of games this season, we are the gift that just keeps on giving.

If I was a proper journalist and not a second-rate stand-in for this one fixture, I’d tot up the number of points thrown away by conceding late, late goals. But I’m not, so I won’t. Suffice to say, it feels like lots and lots – even though, to undermine my own argument here, it’s probably just lots.

(In fact, according to Match of the Day stats, it’s ten – the highest in the division, but even then not as many as it feels.)

Of course, the stark truth is that whatever the reasons behind a propensity for conceding so many late goals – lack of concentration, lack of fitness perhaps, bad luck even – overall QPR have simply not been good enough.

That rather inexplicable, oddly lacklustre start to the season apart, there have been very few occasions during the season, even when the away defeats were totting up, that you could point a finger at the team collectively, or players individually, and accuse them of not trying, or not caring – or any one of the sins visited on the QPR team that went down with a whimper last time around.

All any of us ask of our players is they put in the effort and the commitment; that they play to the best of their ability; that they play with a professional pride. The difference between then and now is that we at least have an honest team.

When this QPR team goes down (‘if’ has left town!), it will be because it’s not been good enough to stay up. It’s not exactly a cause for pride in going down honestly, or with a battle, but it goes a long way towards explaining the absence of any real anger or blame for that situation by Rangers fans.

Certainly, just as there was in the wake of the Chelsea defeat and the must-win game against West Ham that we didn’t, there was an air of resignation amongst those supporters trudging out of Anfield at the end.

Fairly predictability, post-match online comment, in its many guises, included the usual stuff and nonsense about players not caring or not putting in the effort – which is not only untrue and blatantly unfair, it also demonstrates a lack of knowledge about what the poster is watching.

One charge that can be fairly levelled at Rangers is that compared to almost every team they face, they are slower at moving the ball around, less fluid in their play, less instinctive in their passing.

Once again that was very much in evidence here, although the game plan was plain for all to see in Chris Ramsey’s line-up. Surprisingly, he opted for Charlie Austin playing as a lone striker, with only Matt Phillips and Leroy Fer for occasional company, and the midfield sitting deep, trying to break up the Liverpool play and rarely venturing too far forward unless it was for a set-piece.

As a set-up for a point, it was just about perfect, Rangers winning the battle in midfield and on the occasions that Liverpool threatened in front of goal, the defence time and again put their bodies on the line. It didn’t make for the best game of the season, though it was a long way from the being the worst.

But time and time again this season that set-up has not worked, with Austin cutting an isolated and frustrated figure up front, starved of any real service over the 90 minutes and forced wide on far too many occasions. That’s not his game, and it’s certainly not how he’s got the vast majority of his goals.

And yet Rangers appeared to have got off to the perfect start, with an early corner from Phillips, which daisy-cutted its way down the goalline, turned in at the near post by Leroy Fer. Celebrations in the away end were quickly muted by the sight of the linesman’s raised flag. At the time no-one knew quite why it hadn’t counted, but according to MOTD commentator Jonathan Pearce later, the ball had “clearly bounced over the line… good decision!” - when it fact the television pictures confirmed nothing of the sort.

Five minutes in to the game, QPR fans broke into a minute’s applause as a mark of respect to the Ferdinand family, the news revealed just hours earlier that Rio’s wife, Rebecca, had lost her battle with cancer.

Even after the early blow of having a goal chalked off, Rangers were enjoying the best of the opening exchanges. So it was typical that Liverpool would take the lead on the 19-minute mark, Coutinho finishing off a swift Liverpool move with a well-placed shot curled in to the top corner; nothing Green could do about that one.

The goal seem to lift Liverpool, if not the home support, who after celebrating seeing their team take the lead soon resumed their slumbers. This is a very different Anfield to the one it used to be, and mocked by the QPR support with chants enquiring if it was, in fact, a library – and asking where the famous atmosphere had gone.

Perhaps the answer lies with the banner flown over the ground pre-match which simply stated ‘Rodgers out – Rafa in’. Yes, it must be tough that – sitting in fifth place.

I mock. I know it’s not as simple as that. Reflecting the experience of a visit to Anfield these days, this is a far from vintage Liverpool side, and despite Rangers going in at half-time a goal behind and with plenty of work to do to get back in to it, the game was still in the balance.

QPR were forced into making a change at half-time, with Yun on for Caulker, who was later revealed to have broken a bone in his hand. One-time QPR youngster Raheem Sterling should have doubled Liverpool’s lead early in the second-half, when with the Rangers defence stretched and a clear sight of goal in front of him, he shot hopelessly wide.

Another feature of this season has been the number of corners taken that have failed to clear the first man. That was again in evidence here, with a couple of poorly-taken efforts in a second-half in which Rangers were otherwise looking quite bright. Clearly frustrated by this, when Phillips went to take a third QPR corner of the half, he was waved away by Barton, whose inch-perfect cross was volleyed home through a crowd of players to make it 1-1, and now very much game on with more than a quarter of an hour left.

Fer celebrated by running to the QPR support and lifting his jersey to reveal a T-shirt on which was written a rudimentary message urging the Ferdinand family to stay strong.

With Zamora on for Henry, and Austin dropping deeper, the advantage swung firmly back to Liverpool in the space of two minutes, the time it took Onuoha to collect two yellow cards, the first for a blatant tug on Skrtel, the resulting penalty saved by Green, and then a scything tackle on Jordon Ibe, which was only ever going to earn him a red card.

As on so many occasions this season, Rangers couldn’t hold on to what they had. It had been a decent enough performance, but ultimately it had fallen short of what was really needed. Hopes raised, then dashed. Points thrown away through an inability to see a game out. The story of the season encapsulated in this one 90 minutes.

Mathematically, we can still do it. Realistically, it’s not going to happen. Short of an unlikely win at Eastlands next Sunday, relegation could well be confirmed before facing a Newcastle side itself currently very much in the mix.

It was supposed to be the season when, lessons learned, we were going to make a better fist of things back in the Premier League. Instead, once again we’ve proven not good enough as a team. All the same, we haven’t exactly helped ourselves with a succession of new and imaginative ways to shoot ourselves in the foot in the remaining minutes of games – figuratively so, but almost as painful in its own way.

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Liverpool: Mignolet 6, Can 6, Skrtel 7, Lovren 6, Johnson 8 (Markovic 84, -), Gerrard 7 (Lucas 89, -), Coutinho 8, Sterling 6, Lambert 6, Lallana 7 (Ibe 68, 6) Subs not used: Moreno, Toure, Allen, Ward

Goals: Coutinho 19 (assisted Lambert), Gerrard 87 (assisted Coutinho)

Bookings: Gerrard 19 (foul), Lovren 74 (foul)

QPR: Green 7; Onuoha 6, Dunne 7, Caulker 7 (Yun 45, 7), Hill 7; Phillips 6, Barton 6, Sandro 7, Henry 6 (Zamora 71, 6); Fer 8, Austin 6 Subs not used: McCarthy, Kranjcar, Hoilett, Wright-Phillips, Grego-Cox

Goals: Fer 73 (assisted Barton)

Bookings: Sandro 42 (foul), Dunne 75 (foul), Onuoha 78 (shirt-pulling), Austin 90 (foul)

Sending-off: Onuoha 81 (decapitation)

QPR Star Man - Leroy Fer 8 Not just for his goal, which brought Rangers level and raised hopes of leaving with a point, but for his efforts throughout the game.

Referee: Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire) 8 Never made himself the centre of attention, got the penalty decision right and had no choice other than to dismiss Onuoha. Stepped in calmly when Hill and Lallana got involved in a bout of verbals, and despite brandishing six yellow cards was never over-fussy.

Attendance: 44,707 (2,000 QPR) Other than a pre-match rendition of the Liverpool anthem, there was little atmosphere to speak of, with only the odd stirring from the home fans and the away support making the most of what noise there was.

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PunteR added 21:21 - May 3
Cheers Dave. I'd like to say i enjoyed reading that,but in the nicest possible way i didnt.
Good report though.
We will probably do something ridiculous now and beat Man city.

probbo added 21:35 - May 3
Thanks Dave and long live AKUTRs.

We can rue the points conceded in the last 10 minutes through the season but the league table doesn't lie. Credit to Leicester for giving themselves a chance of staying up. It looks like Fer and Caulker will suffer the ignomy of back to back relegations but no doubt will will be gone by July, along with many others. It's all very unfortunate but time to rebuild and start again. I'm looking forward to next season, whatever it may bring.

OldPedro added 22:28 - May 3
Only saw the highlights on MOTD and was surprised they didn't even show the early corner agin to see if the whole of the ball was out but they only seemed interested in making it the Stevie G show interspersed with shots of Brendan Rogers. As Dave says, our season in a nutshell - not very good and not very lucky although not sure that Hull and Sunderland are any better than us. How different could it have been if we had taken 6 points off Hull rather than gifting the points to them.

romfordranger added 22:57 - May 3
I just can't wait for the season to end, sheer torture the majority of the time. The club are so poorly run and under Fernandes have made no progress. He didn't sack Redknapp and should have done, and whilst Palace, WBA and Villa all made good appointments to save themselves from relegation, we appoint a novice. sadly, as nice a guy Ramsey might be, he not a winner. The players may love him, but results have been awful, some tactical decisions bizarre, and whilst the players try hard, they lack belief. As annoying as Sherwood is, he is a winner and has quickly galvanised the team. i feel for Austin and Green, but no one else emerges from the season with any real credit. The next managerial appointment needs to be the right one and given the time to build a squad with some home grown players. Somehow with QPR, you always know they will fu@k it up, perhaps one day we will get it right!

TacticalR added 23:38 - May 3
Thanks for your report.

Onuoha. Kept drifting into the middle, so that at times it looked as though we didn't have anyone playing at right-back. Even with Phillips coming back to cover he couldn't do everything and big gaps kept appearing. Onuoha's sending off shows that there is a big question over his temperament in high pressure matches.

Caulker. Miles out of position for the first goal.

Fer. Great goal and gave us some much-needed pace up front.

Green. Kept us in the game with his penalty save.

Barton. Had a very bad patch when he kept giving the ball away.

Phillips. His defensive duties took away from his attacking game.

AussieRs added 04:19 - May 4
Thanks for your report Dave. I disagree strongly on one point about how Rangers won the midfield battle. I thought this game completely exposed our lack of quality in this area. At one stage Barton decided it was less time consuming to be caught with the ball so he just started passing it directly to Liverpool players. Sandro is one of the best exponents of the Inspector Gadget school of tackling, where the ball is out of your reach but you somehow manage to extend a limb and get there. But he is always on his arse doing this, with almost no telling forward passes from him all season. Henry did what he does. But so many defensive central midfielders meant Fer was only effective link up to isolated Austin. Rather than win the midfield, QPR hung on, diving about, occasionally winning possession but then having no clue how to get forward. Liverpool's midfield by contrast looked like a misfiring executive vehicle and lightweights like Coutinho, when they got going, simply left us for dead.
Too late for tactics. Glad I kept up my subscription to the now-called BeinSports as they have the rights to the Championship here in Australia.

snanker added 05:39 - May 4
Dave well penned the old cliché snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (and just as often a point) is the regular R's modes operandi that constantly finds both new and refreshed ways to mmm uck it up ! You cant concede that amount of goals especially so many late ones in the season and give yourself a genuine chance of surviving. (Although Newcastle are making a good fist of it at the end of the season......another 5 all draw in prospect next home game then !) Our disallowed goal, Greens decent penalty stop the sending off and Gerrard's late, late, goal all were to script ! We seem to have entrenched a culture of cluster ..k under TF and lets risk being another possible Wigan even if it means starting all over again. Just when you think the frustration cant fuel the anger anymore a tragedy at the club brings the game back into the pale. A very sad day

cyprusmel added 06:15 - May 4
Good report Dave, Leroy Fer is one of the players we need for next season and I hope he stays.
I remember another occasion when we were fighting relegation at Coventry in a match we had to win when Andy Impey saw the red mist, was sent off and the following weeks KUTR's with 4 pictures on it asking which one was the muppet, I'm sure I still have it somewhere.

howard added 12:25 - May 4
After 40 years a season ticket holder sad as it seems I don't think I will be renewing next season. Cannot take anymore torture.
Fernandez may be a very successful business man but he has had his pants taken down time & time again by agents & managers at the expense of us the fools( fans) that tolerate it.
Excuses excuses excuses. Penalty, ball was in, inside , all bull shit, we are rubbish. We allow managers to bring in second rate has been end of career players all just in it to make their last pay day.
As soon as Fernandez had a sniff off pullis available he should of sacked redknap who is a manager that's done nothing in his career apart from fleecing money out of all the teams he has destroyed. As for Ramsey what a joke to employ a coach with no experience. Pull is should have been in at any price.
Anybody out there disagree then you at e deluded.
And as for Marsh he thinks we will still stay up. Says it all.
Be lucky to stay in championship next year boys.
Long live Neil Warnock!


extratimeR added 12:38 - May 4
Thanks Dave

Yes, nicely summed up, I thought hello were going to knick a point here, no fault on effort, and Green played very well.

Phillips, (not his day for taking set pieces), is up for every game, cant see how we will hold on to him next year.

dixiedean added 19:06 - May 5
cheers for the report Dave, miserable though it is.
Realistically we look like being back in the situation we were in when Ollie took over, with 2 goalies and 6 or 7 outfield players ( not that many of them will want to stay or we'd want to keep) plus a few youngsters like Furlong and Doughty. Green, Austin,Phillips and Fer have sell-on value - not sure many Prem teams will be queuing up for Caulker on this season's showing. The rest are either past it or too expensive/not good enough. THE most important signing we make will be the manager, but TF and his crew have an appalling record in that dept, so no need for optimism there. And will Les look beyond his buddy Ramsey ? I'm not sure whether we should keep him or not, but as always that depends who we could get instead. Karl Robinson is now in the same division so he won't come, but he's the type of guy we need. Same division as MK F'ing Dons I ask you ! That says it all .There aren't many Eddie Howes out there and would Warburton come to us ? That needs to be sorted before we can even think about recruiting players. To misquote Bananarama, it's going to be long long summer.....

QPRinCT added 08:17 - May 6
Excellent job here Dave! You summed up the QPR situation perfectly.
It's simply unreal that we are not safe of relegation at this point.
'Arry should have been sacked after the first few games at least, or certainly after the Tarrabt/30 stone meltdown last fall.
I like Ramsey to a certain degree but am not sure he has what it takes to promote QPR from Championship.
It will be interesting to see what TF and LF have as a plan -- if there is any.

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