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Queens Park Rangers’ hopes of avoiding relegation were dealt a big blow as Luis Suarez inspired Liverpool to a comprehensive victory despite the absence of manager Brendan Rodgers.
Liverpool dominated from the outset and coasted to victory even without Rodgers, who was unwell and too sick to be on the touchline. Assistant manager Colin Pascoe and coach Mike Marsh deputised at Loftus Road, where Suarez struck two goals inside the opening 16 minutes. Daniel Agger nodded the visitors further ahead in the 28th minute and, despite an improved second-half performance from the hosts, Liverpool were never in any real danger of losing grip of proceedings.
The defeat leaves QPR bottom and eight points adrift of safety heading into a tough January, which starts with a trip to local rivals Chelsea. Harry Redknapp's side had an important day given their current predicament, with fans calling for the spirit shown when Liverpool last visited back in March. QPR came back from behind to secure a 3-2 win that day, with the result proving a catalyst in their successful battle against the drop.
The West Londoners needed a similar result today but returning goalkeeper Julio Cesar was tested inside the first three minutes. Suarez jinked past Clint Hill and unleashed a fierce strike that the Brazilian, recalled in place of Robert Green, could only parry.
Julio Cesar was under pressure from the outset, with Suarez netting his first of the afternoon in the 10th minute. The Uruguayan collected a pass from Jordan Henderson and ghosted past Hill, before striking low past the goalkeeper.
It was the 14th time this season that QPR had conceded the opening goal and in the 16th minute Liverpool doubled their advantage. Suarez was again both scorer and creator, bursting along the byline from the right to produce a cross that Nedum Onuoha could only block straight into the striker's path, allowing him to net again.
Adel Taarabt and Djibril Cisse tried and failed with audacious efforts in a bid to reduce the deficit, although it was Liverpool still in the ascendancy. Ryan Nelsen did well to stop Suarez connecting with a low Glen Johnson cross, before an unmarked Steven Gerrard tested Julio Cesar from the resulting corner.
Liverpool did not have to wait long for their third goal, as Gerrard collected a short corner and sent in a right-wing cross for Agger to nod home.
Taarabt called Jose Reina into action for the first time shortly afterwards, although most of the action was still at the other end. Henderson was inches away from Liverpool's fourth with a drilled 20-yard strike, before a Gerrard effort was cleared off the line by a combination of Armand Traore and Nelsen. Taarabt struck a number of shots from distance as he tried to claw QPR back.
QPR emerged for the second half with Shaun Derry on in place of Cisse as Redknapp switched to a 3-5-2 formation. The move to make the home side sturdier worked for the most part, but Liverpool were still creating chances. Suarez saw a goalbound effort superbly tipped over by Julio Cesar, before Gerrard and Henderson threatened.
QPR proved more of a threat in the second half and, after Traore flashed a cross-shot across goal, Stephane Mbia had two strikes from distances. Jose Enrique limped off and was replaced by Suso as the game entered the final 20 minutes in which Liverpool shut up shop.
QPR manager Harry Redknapp: "I still feel we'll be OK. We will look to get one or two [players] in. There are some good lads here anyway, I think it's possible. It's my belief we'll be OK."
"It's not easy getting players in at this stage at the bottom of the league, but if someone is up for the challenge, it's a great chance. We need new faces and if we get the right players we can make a real effort. We have some hard games to come but there is a long way to go. You could have 10 games to go and need 20 points and it can be done.
"Don't give up, we have to keep believing, keep going. Those that are with us are with us, those that aren't, we'll try and do something."
"It's easy to sit there and say there's no fight. It's easy to say that. We got moved about by better players. Suarez ... What can you do when he does that to Clint Hill? It's easy to say it was a lack of effort. We started the season getting beat five by Swansea. You can only get the best out of what you've got."
Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe: "[Suarez]'s a maverick, he's brilliant, I can't speak highly enough of him. He's a true gentleman. But all of the lads were magnificent.
“The chances we created were phenomenal. We could have had a couple more. Some of our play was exciting to watch and I'm sure our fans will be happy tonight. It was fantastic to watch, the way the lads passed the ball around and the weight of our chances."
|02 Jan 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Spurs (H)|
|19 Jan 2013||v West Ham (A)|
|29 Jan 2013||v Man City (H)|
|02 Feb 2013||v Norwich (H)|
|09 Feb 2013||v Swansea (A)|