Liverpool: With Real Madrid Looming, All You Can Do Is Laugh
In the end, the only sane response was laughter. Incredulous, slightly manic, laughter.
We’d done it again. We’d turned the last five minutes of a match into insanity: turned it into the main event rather than a side show. Taken a match that we could - should - have lost and turned it into yet another slightly unbelievable victory. Created yet another possible turning point.
The other thing that we did again was under perform. Seriously under perform. We were woeful. In almost every department we were utterly woeful. And we got away with it. Obviously, on Wednesday, when the last five minutes see Christian Ronaldo score his nineteenth and twentieth goals of the game, none of this chaos will seem amusing anymore but for now it’s mildly bloody hilarious.
Two weeks off. The longest, most pointless international break in history. Plenty of time to get Daniel Sturridge fit again. Well, that didn’t happen did it? Broke down in training, calf strain, another month on the sidelines. Can’t even blame that owl-faced idiot for that one. Can blame him for turning the world against Raheem Sterling though. Many players have told their manager that they’re not right to play, that they’re suffering from fatigue, implied that they’re on the edge of burnout; most of them don’t see their manager give all the details of a private conversation to the media though. But then most of those players weren’t working for idiots were they? Raheem didn’t look tired at QPR though, Raheem was sharp, bright, pacey. Raheem was one of the shining moments in an otherwise appalling performance. A quick free kick - which he’d earned himself - to allow Glen Johnson to force the first own goal, a spurt from centre midfield to start the move that led to Coutinho’s goal and latching onto a world class Coutinho pass to cross to the foot of the hapless Caulker for a 94th minute, thoroughly undeserved winner.
All the pre-game feeling had been that ‘if Southampton can put eight against Sunderland then we can get double figures against QPR.’ The idea of getting ‘Arry the sack at the same time was the nicest bonus imaginable.
QPR were brilliant. Far, far better than us. We can thank several excellent Mignolet saves, the crossbar (twice) and two Skrtel goal-line clearances for the fact that we weren’t hammered out of sight by the time we decided to turn up and play, somewhere around the hour mark.
Intensity, dynamism, high pressure; everything that we believe ourselves capable of, QPR delivered to us. We were incapable of retaining the ball, incapable of creation, incapable of defending set pieces. Again. Our defenders were incapable of dealing with Bobby Zamora. God help them against Real on Wednesday.
That we started with Henderson and Can holding with Gerrard sitting behind Balotelli seemed to be what we needed. It was certainly what we wanted. It had worked at the end of the previous game and we’d had a fortnight to work on it. It didn’t work. We missed Henderson’s intensity, the game bypassed Can and didn’t seem likely to arrive at Gerrard at any point. QPR ran the midfield and from there the game. Switching from the ‘two and the one’ to ‘’the one and the two’ after half time, with Gerrard sitting and Henderson/Can operating in front of him gave some stability. Not much but some. Passes went astray, clearances went to blue hooped shirts, second balls were lost and we waited for QPR to tire. For Zamora to leave the pitch. Which, unfortunately, meant that Vargas entered the fray and caused ore problems than his predecessor had.
One-nil up on 86 minutes. See the game out, it’s easy, see the game out, it’s what you’re paid for. 1-1 in the 89th(ish - I lost track), 2-1 up from perfect counter attack and a deflected shot. See the game out, it’s easy, see the game out.
2-2 from the kick off. It’s over. Except it isn’t. There’s a QPR fee kick. Caulker’s going up for it. We’re going to throw this away aren’t we? But Dunne (10 career own goals now but he does seem to have been playing for about 35 years) is calling Caulker back. Maybe they’ll take the point? And we’re clearing and we’re breaking and Coutinho plays a pass, a glorious pass and Sterling latches and passes across goal and Caulker, Caulker who wouldn’t have been there if he’d gone up for the free kick and may even have netted a winner, taps it into his own net.
And if he hadn’t? Mario was waiting. Mario, who was waiting for the ball beyond the defender for the first own goal. Waiting to undoubtedly balloon it over the bar as he had the easiest chance you could ever wish for earlier in the game.Mario who did nothing else of value for 90 minutes. The jury’s not out on Mario, the jury’s getting really pissed off with him. He’s got a song all of his own, we sing it a lot, he’s done nothing to earn it yet. Maybe Wednesday will be the moment he earns it? Doubtful. At the moment I’d start Lambert against Real before Balotelli. I’d start Borini. I’d start my 79 year old father. They’d all have more impact.
But Mario doesn’t matter for the moment. Madness erupted. Madness of the ‘have we really just got away with that?’ variety. Yes we had. We got away with it. We deserved a thrashing, QPR deserved a glorious victory. We got three points, we’re fifth in the league and the fans that are abusing us for being rubbish are mostly below us.
It’s going to be alright. Honest.
Real Madrid must be terrified.