JAMIE Mackie capped off a memorable comeback as Queens Park Rangers overturned a two goal deficit to beat Liverpool.
The writing seemed on the wall when defender Sebastián Coates struck a sublime volley before Dirk Kuyt netted a genuine poachers effort to all but bury the beleaguered hosts.
Step forward QPR – dogged midfielder Shaun Derry burst the malaise with his well-directed second half header before ex-Red Djibril Cissé nodded home a stunning equaliser.
The best was yet to come as substitute Mackie burst through the Liverpool rearguard to smash home a stunning injury time winner for the relegation-threatened hosts.
A genuine confidence-boosting result on a special evening in W12 and Mark Hughes’ men must now make this count against Sunderland this weekend.
Mark Hughes opted for two changes from the side that were defeated at Bolton Wanderers with Luke Young and Adel Taarabt returning at the expense of the injured Clint Hill (back) and the dropped Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Luke Young, Nedum Onouha, Anton Ferdinand and Armand Traoré. Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt started wide with Samba Diakité and Shaun Derry in the middle. Djibril Cissé partnered Bobby Zamora in attack.
Liverpool began with Pepe Reina behind a defence of Martin Kelly, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel and Jose Enrique. Jay Spearing, Steven Gerrard and Charlie Adam started across the middle with Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing flanking lone forward Luis Suarez.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v LIVERPOOL
Defeat at Bolton last Saturday seemed an age away but the wounds were still ever so fresh for many of the QPR fans that entered in hope rather than expectation on a mild West London evening.
Liverpool’s side and set-up belies their league position as it read like a who’s who of Premier League talents. Skippered by the experienced England international Steven Gerrard, the Reds were looking to rekindle their ever-fleeting hopes of fourth place.
The ambitions of the two clubs could not have been more diametrically opposed, but the importance certainly lie with the home club in terms of picking up home points to save themselves from Championship abyss.
As the fixture got underway it was clear to see that the Reds intent was to attack directly and wreak havoc among an ailing Rangers rearguard. Luis Suarez in particular played the role of key tormentor, dropping into the useful spaces and interlinking with a fluid midfield.
It took three minutes for the Reds to turn their dominance into opportunities. For all their nice interplay it was a hopeful long pass – misjudged poorly by Nedum Onouha – that allowed the live wire Suarez space in behind.
The Uruguayan front-man had time and space at his disposal but was thwarted by an excellent reaction save by Paddy Kenny – there was only one King Kenny in the house on this early evidence.
A frankly unbelievable succession of corners served to epitomise the level of dominance from the visiting side. The R’s had to defend manfully to keep out defender Martin Skrtel from point-blank range.
This was one way traffic as Steven Gerrard proved the lynchpin in Liverpool’s dogged midfield, Rangers could muster little in riposte with Anton Ferdinand the hero of the hour to block a close range effort from Dutch international Dirk Kuyt.
Liverpool once again looked the only team likely to score, and Gerrard once again played architect lashing a venomous centre across the face of the goal, narrowly evading the outstretched foot of Kuyt.
Rangers showed brief glimpses of their capabilities with Barton linking up with Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cissé, the latter then took the ball in his stride before firing wide of Pepe Reina’s upright – the Spaniard underworked in the early offing.
Suarez once again was denied by a stunning save from Kenny when one on one, but it displayed the vast chasm of quality between the two sides in terms of overall team quality and performance.
20 minutes in and the tide showed no signs of abating, Stewart Downing saw a rare right-footed shot deflected wide before Skrtel wasted another in a succession of corners by nodding over from point blank range.
Armand Traoré showed some raw pace and skill to see him comfortably past Martin Kelly before his subsequent cross was poorly fielded by full-back Jose Enrique – slicing a right footed clearance over his own bar and away for a corner.
Cissé was looking the most likely outlet for a QPR goal and he took his fleeting opportunities to attack by the scruff of the neck – working space across from the left before striking a powerful right-footed effort inches wide of the right-hand upright.
Rangers were still yet to register their first opportunity on target while the visiting side continued to look threatening in the attacking third. Joey Barton however seemed to be on a different wavelength to his team-mates for the home side.
There was little question that his effort was evident but such wayward passing was out of kilter with the way the hosts needed to perform, poor even by the midfielder’s recent appalling standards – his wayward shot rather symbolised his poor first half showing.
Kelly was withdrawn for Liverpool with Jamie Carragher moving over to right back. Sebastián Coates came on for the Reds to slot in at centre back. As the half began to draw to a close, Rangers looked more likely to engineer some opportunities of note.
Zamora’s stern strength in the heart of the area saw him buy some space but Liverpool defended doggedly to clear their lines and ensure that the scorelines remained goalless going into the break.
A half that certainly belonged to Liverpool, but the hosts will have been encouraged that despite their evident inferiority the scorelines were still level and hope could still be mustered for a positive result.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-0 LIVERPOOL
A change for both sides as they took to the field for the second period – a keenly-contested challenge between Traoré and Charlie Adam saw them both withdrawn with Taye Taiwo and Jordan Henderson taking the field respectively.
The hosts seemed more intent to put up a fight in the opening exchange and Cissé struck straight at Reina from the edge of the area – an effort on target that gave the Frenchman an early sighter.
Rangers however were to concede early on and it was from a hallowed set-piece – one of many for the dominant visiting side. A goal line scramble was eventually cleared by Zamora only for substitute defender SEBASTIÁN COATES to lash home a sensational volley.
The defender showed all the poise and technique of a veteran forward to leave the floor and scissor kick an effort beyond a beleaguered Kenny. A goal that truly took the wind from the sails in W12.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-1 LIVERPOOL
It was a knife wound for QPR whose confidence was proving brittle at best – devastated at worst. Barton in particular was proving frustrating and his poor performance made him an immediate target for frustrated supporters.
He was withdrawn to jeers – and while a lot of the time these reactions belong to the minority, it would be fair to say that the majority registered their displeasure at a lacklustre performance of a players that seems to sit apart from the rest of the set-up.
The player that came on in his stead, Jamie Mackie, is always bound to stir the reaction of the home crowd. Certainly the supporters responded in kind as the noise levels picked up at a previously tepid Loftus Road crowd.
It mattered little as Liverpool extended their lead and took the stuffing out of Rangers’ rally. Downing managed to engineer an effort, producing an excellent save from Kenny, but DIRK KUYT was on hand to pounce on the rebound and double the Reds advantage,
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-2 LIVERPOOL
Hughes’ men now looked dead and buried. Bereft of ideas, being torn apart on the break and lacking a killer instinct in all areas of the park – players were out on their feet, cutting a forlorn figure of a set-up.
There were fleeting glimpses of Rangers’ now fearless play – Taiwo struck a powerful free kick from the right that deflected handsomely off the wall despite that rather bizarre protestations of skipper Gerrard.
The corner taking duties were handed to Adel Taarabt and the Moroccan didn’t disappoint with his delivery. His far post cross was met by the head of SHAUN DERRY with the R’s midfielder gliding home an excellently-taken header for his first QPR goal.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-2 LIVERPOOL
It was a glimmer, a flicker of hope that supporters could cling onto – many like myself looked at the clock with the bizarre realisation of quite how much time was left for the hosts to get back into the encounter.
Suarez had been considerably more quiet in the second period but his shimmy dazzled the Rangers defence before seeing his shot come back off the right hand upright. Other than that the turf was his closest ally, earning his side a couple of valuable free-kicks.
Dalglish was keen to give himself an outlet up front and Andy Carroll – a £35 million purchase from Newcastle United – was the man that fitted the bill for the Liverpool legend – visiting supporters tended to disagree.
The final ten minutes would be fraught with Rangers coming forward – albeit tentatively in search of a leveller, mindful of the fact that Liverpool had caught them all too many times previously on the counter-attack.
Nevertheless it had to be caution to the wind for the relegation-threatened hosts. Carroll took over swallow diving duties from Suarez when Diakité attempted a challenge, but Gerrard’s subsequent effort was comfortably left by Kenny.
Rangers would land that threatening blow however and it came with a bit of magic down the left. Taarabt as ever dazzled sat off the left flank before laying in Taiwo. The Nigerian international was afforded the space to pick out a sublime centre.
DJIBRIL CISSÉ was lurking in the middle, stealing a march on his marker to nod home a scintillating leveller and cause the Loftus Road crowd to erupt – a goal from relatively little had Rangers not only back in the game, but level in an encounter from which they were dead and buried.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2-2 LIVERPOOL
Liverpool shellshocked; Rangers rampant – the hosts now had the bit between their teeth and threatened to turn the game on its head. The side looked a stark contrast from that team that slumped to a two goal deficit.
Derry – the first goalscorer – was a man possessed, while Mackie had evidently disturbed a normally composed defender in Enrique. Carragher at right back was certainly struggling with the demands that Taarabt and Taiwo had by now necessitated.
With minutes remaining Hughes was forced to withdraw goalscorer Cissé with Akos Buzsaky coming on in his stead with the hosts going 4-5-1. It created more space for players in the middle of the park and Rangers duly capitalised on this greater impetus and drive.
It was all from a hopeful long pass that dissected a ponderous defence. They could only watch on as JAMIE MACKIE was allowed to coast through and bury a right footed drive to spark delirium in W12.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-2 LIVERPOOL
It was vintage Loftus Road noise as Mackie disappeared into the melee having netted a stunning strike deep into three minutes injury time. Without question a moment and a goal to savour as Hughes’ men capped off a memorable comeback.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-2 LIVERPOOL