Queens Park Rangers have been relegated for next season, and they certainly looked the part against Liverpool on Sunday. The Reds—already assured of the No. 7 spot in the Premier League tables—dismantled their counterparts 1-0, boosted by strong outings from Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Ibe.
Liverpool jumped out to a hot start with constant pressure on QPR keeper Robert Green. Coutinho was the architect of the aggression, and he would see to it that Liverpool’s effort wouldn’t go unrewarded.
In the 22nd minute, the midfielder took a pass from Ibe and scorched a shot from 25 yards into the bottom corner past Green for a 1-0 Reds lead.
The Reds had very little to play for in this match, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the moment (via Liverpool FC):
The following minutes would be all Liverpool as the home side continued turning the screws on QPR’s back line. The Reds tallied 11 shots and held possession for 65 percent of the first 37 minutes of action.
As John Bradley pointed out, Liverpool looked impressive, and QPR looked much like a relegated squad:
Liverpool are having a game of tin can alley with the QPR goal.....Rangers have been woeful. No pressing, not tracking runners...— John Bradley (@JBcommentator) May 19, 2013
Even defender Jamie Carragher got in on the action in the 34th minute, peppering a shot that was eventually blocked. He spent his final time on the pitch at Anfield with ringing cheers and generous support from Liverpool supporters, and even his blocked shots were reason for fans to celebrate their club’s vice-captain (via Steven Gerrard):
QPR did manage to get a little momentum going in the final minutes of the first half, but their attack looked mostly disoriented and out of sorts. Pepe Reina did his job to stave off the attack, though, and Liverpool carried a 1-0 lead into halftime with little reason to worry.
In the first 45 minutes of play, Liverpool attempted 13 shots (three on target), while QPR flailed their way to just three shots and none on net. It was a dominant first-half performance from a superior club, who controlled possession for 62 percent of the opening half.
Liverpool could have easily been ahead by two or three goals at the half, however. The Reds were far more aggressive than their counterparts in the opening half, but a sloppy attack limited their scoring chances in the first 45 minutes. They would have to tighten things up in the final third in order to build on their lead in the second half.
QPR were the only side to make any halftime adjustments in their starting XI, bringing on Esteban Granero in place of Stephane Mbia. For Liverpool, there wasn’t much need to shake things up.
The Reds would again open the half with a couple scoring opportunities in the initial minutes, keeping the pressure on QPR’s back line. Ibe saw a tremendous scoring opportunity in the 48th minute, but his effort missed the mark by a few feet.
As Michael Fitzgerald noted on Twitter, the 17-year-old looked impressive in the start. He certainly wasn’t fazed by the Premier League’s big stage:
Jordan Ibe is very much showing he's not phased by the occasion. Well done!— Michael Fitzgerald (@FitzgeraldNO5) May 19, 2013
The Reds would get another huge opportunity in the 50th minute when Glen Johnson attacked down the right side with a strike to the net, forcing Green to make yet another strong save. Liverpool attacked from the right side early and often in the contest, and Ibe did a tremendous job of locking down the left side opposite Johnson and Stewart Downing.
While Liverpool still retained possession for much of the second half, QPR did seem to stabilize their attack and find some confidence in holding at midfield. QPR appeared to be building a small amount of momentum, and it seemed Liverpool would have to find a way to score again to put the match out of reach.
Carragher did his part in attempting to build his club’s lead with a 40-yard strike that just missed the mark. Everyone at Anfield seemed to want to see him net a goal in his final contest before retirement, and he certainly appeared content on pleasing his fans (via Liverpool FC):
Ibe’s debut ended in the 64th minute as he was relieved in favor of Fabio Borini, but he did well to preview his future with the club. It was a strong outing, highlighted by an assist on Coutinho’s 22nd-minute goal, though his overall play eclipsed any tallies on the stat sheet (via LiverpoolScout):
Excellent hour debut for Jordon Ibe. Showed his attacking & defensive prowess. 1 assist, 2 key passes, 91% PA, 1 shot, 1 tackle, 1 int. #LFC— LiverpoolScout (@LiverpoolScout) May 19, 2013
The final minutes of the match were more a show in honor of Carragher than a competitive contest. QPR were completely outmatched all day, and Liverpool were able to keep the pressure in QPR’s half and have a little fun with their veteran defender in his final minutes on the pitch.
Carragher came off in the 86th minute to enjoy his final time on the sidelines with his teammates, and his final match couldn't have gone more perfectly. He didn't manage to find the net (much to the dismay of his generous supporters), but a victory in his final contest is all the veteran leader could have asked for from his club.
The Reds were unable to tack on another goal in the final minutes, but the writing was on the wall from the onset. It was an impressive win from the home side in their final match.
Philippe Coutinho (A)
Coutinho's impressive strike in the 22nd minute took all the pressure off Liverpool. With a 1-0 lead, the Reds were able to coast through much of the contest, turning the screws on QPR's defense in the final third.
There was never much question Liverpool would dominate in this contest, but Coutinho certainly put it out of reach. Ibe's debut and Carragher's finale stole the show, but it was Coutinho who did most of the damage before coming off in the 75th minute.
Jordon Ibe (B+)
Ibe got the start with the intention of seeing what he could do on the big stage with the first team. By the time the match ended, there was little doubt he has a bright future with the Reds.
While he got the credit for the assist on Coutinho's opening goal, it wasn't anything spectacular from the youngster. But that wasn't why everyone seemed so impressed with him.
With tremendous pace and poise, Ibe put his potential on display, constantly finding himself in the mix in the final third. Even against a relegated club like QPR, Ibe's impressive play shouldn't go unnoticed.
Robert Green (B+)
Liverpool had plenty of chances to tack on more scoring in their final contest of the term. If not for Green, the Reds may have come away with a much more lopsided victory.
There's really not much bad to say about the keeper's performance on the day. Coutinho's strike was nearly unstoppable, and Green did plenty to keep his club in the contest. Unfortunately for QPR, the rest of their squad couldn't say the same.
Jamie Carragher (A)
After 737 appearances, Carragher walked off the pitch for the last time in a Liverpool uniform. The contest was as much a tribute to him as it was a competitive match, and Liverpool fans did well in honoring their veteran vice-captain in his final appearance.
And while Carragher deserves an A for his career at Anfield, he also played pretty well in the 1-0 victory. It's not often we've seen him peppering shots from 40 yards, especially shots that miss the mark by mere inches.
All attention now turns to the summer for both clubs. Liverpool may be headed for a bit of a rebuild on the defensive end with Carragher's retirement and the possibility of Reina departing. Time will tell what is to come of that situation, but for now, Liverpool can hold their heads high after a dominating win in their final match.
For QPR, the future is even more uncertain. They finished last in the Premier League with just 25 points, facing relegation for next season. It was a disappointing (albeit fitting) end to the season for a club in desperate need of direction going forward.