LONDON – Liverpool got out of jail against QPR on Sunday. And they know it.
After four goals were scored in the final three minutes of a crazy encounter at Loftus Road, the Reds rolled out of West London with a 3-2 win.
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A Richard Dunne own goal put them ahead then Eduardo Vargas equalized twice for QPR late on, with Philippe Coutinho’s strike sandwiched in-between. Raheem Sterling’s late surging run then forced Steven Caulker to score an own goal, as Liverpool’s fans behind the goal erupted in West London.
At that point the overriding emotion from Liverpool’s players and management was relief. They know they got away with one. Speaking to reporters after the game, Rodgers admitted his side didn’t deserve to win.
“I thought we were fortunate, I’ve got be honest,” Rodgers said. “I like to win and I like to win on the way that we work on a daily basis. That was nowhere near what I would expect from a team of mine. But I have to applaud the players and their character, and their attitude, because even though we weren’t anywhere near with the passing and rhythm of our game. Even when we missed chances to close games out, the players showed remarkable courage to do that. We’ve gained three points that we are happy to receive, having been nowhere near what this team has the capacity to play.”
Liverpool’s captain Steven Gerrard echoed his manager’s comments and admitted they must improve. Liverpool currently sit in fifth position with 13 points from their opening eight games, but the performance was the most concerning aspect for Gerrard.
“We’re still in shock to be honest. We were very lucky today,” Gerrard admitted. “We’d have no complaints if we came away with nothing. Our performance needs to be better. It was very bitty, stop-start, the only credit we can give ourselves is that we never gave up. All around it needs improving. We’ve conceded two sloppy goals. We’re coming up against the best side in Europe in the next week so we need to address that.”
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Gerrard, 34, started the game in an advanced role alongside Mario Balotelli but was subdued before being switched back to his deep lying role in midfield. In the second half Liverpool were more solid and Rodgers admitted they “couldn’t get the ball” to Gerrard in a frustrating first half. Jordan Henderson and Emre Can were overpowered by Karl Henry, Sandro and Leroy Fer in the engine room and Liverpool never got going. With Gerrard in that familiar ‘quarterback role’ he has reinvented himself in, Liverpool looked solid, if not spectacular.
As for Balotelli, well, the Italian striker had another nightmare afternoon and is now without a goal in six games back in the Premier League. In the 61st minute he skied an effort over the bar from eight-yards out which summed up his afternoon. Despite that, Rodgers is still pleased with Balotelli and said “the most important thing for me is that he is working hard, doing his best.” As a team, Liverpool are working hard but are far from their best. Defensively, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel were bullied by Bobby Zamora and Charlie Austin as the Reds could not deal with high balls on a difficult day.
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With Real Madrid’s high-octane offense coming to Anfield in a crucial UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday, the Reds know they must improve. They’ll take this smash and grab win in West London against a much-improved QPR, but Rodgers knows they must do better if they have any aspiration to finish in the top four again this campaign and make a splash in Europe.
“We’ll not be overly happy with how we played today but the character and attitude of the team, I don’t think anyone can question that,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got our three points and we will look to improve our performance in the next game.”