Liverpool picked up their fourth Premier League win of the season with a dramatic 2-3 victory over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Sunday.
In what will surely be remembered as one of the most dramatic finishes to a Premier League match of all time, a 95th minute own goal from Steven Caulker won the game for the Reds, who had twice been pegged back by Harry Redknapp’s side in the final six minutes.
Twice Liverpool were in front, firstly through an own goal from Richard Dunne, and then a deflected strike from Philippe Coutinho, after Rangers substitute Eduardo Vargas had twice pulled the game level.
Brendan Rodgers side can count themselves extremely fortunate to have come away with all three points, on an afternoon which saw the Reds fail to show any sort of improvement on previous poor performances.
The first half was especially poor, with QPR striker Bobby Zamora bullying Liverpool centre backs Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren for fun.
Rangers will count themselves unfortunate not to have gone in 3-0 up at the interval, with Charlie Austin denied in a one-on-one by Simon Mignolet, and Dutch international Leroy Fer twice striking the woodwork from close range.
The closest Liverpool came to a goal was when captain Steven Gerrard – starting the game in a more advanced position – curled the ball just wide having linked up with the frustrating Mario Baotelli.
Into the second half, and worse was to come from the Italian as he contributed a contender for miss of the season.
With the Reds slowly starting to take greater control of the game, Adam Lallana was denied by a superb save by Alex McCarthy when the ball fell to the England midfielder in the box. The ball fell to Balotelli, who fired spectacularly over from six yards with an open goal to hit.
Liverpool did take the lead eventually, although it came via a 10th Premier League own goal for Richard Dunne on 67 minutes. The impressive Raheem Sterling was brought down just outside the box, and took the free kick quickly to play in Glen Johnson down the right flank. Johnson crossed early, and with Dunne not properly set, the veteran defender scuffed the ball into his own net with Balotelli lurking.
Balotelli had another opportunity to break his Premier League duck for the Reds, when played in on the right channel by Jordan Henderson. The Italian’s low shot was saved well by the legs of McCarthy, and with the score at 1-0, the game began a hectic final seven minutes in which the two teams shared another four goals.
First came a close range finish from substitute Vargas, with the Reds once again struggling to cope with a long ball into the box. Jose Enrique’s headed clearance did not go as far as he would have hoped, and Rangers kept the pressure on with another cross. Austin powered a header back across the six yard box, and Vargas finished having been lost by the Spanish full back.
Moments later the Chilean almost scored an identical goal, only for Martin Skrtel to dramatically clear from almost underneath his own crossbar. The clearance let to a corner, and from that set piece Liverpool broke.
Raheem Sterling held off the challenge of Karl Henry, and fed Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool captain found Philippe Coutinho on the left hand side, and the little Brazilian drifted inside and hit a sweet shot that went into the bottom corner on 90 minutes, with the aid of a slight deflection.
But inexplicably the Reds conceded a second equaliser to Vargas just moments later – with a set piece once again proving to be their downfall. A corner conceded within seconds of the restart was whipped to the near post, and Vargas got the final touch to glance a header past Mignolet at his near post. The Belgian got hands to the effort and pushed it out of his goal, but Phil Dowd signalled the ball had crossed the line.
Balotelli spurned yet another chance just moments later, trying to backheel the ball into the net from close range after a decent low cross from Glen Johnson, in a moment that summed up the 24-year-old’s afternoon.
Then it was Rangers turn to try and grab a deserved winner, which certainly seemed possible – especially when they were given another opportunity to launch a ball into the box from a free kick on half way. But a poor kick saw Liverpool break once more, with Coutinho playing a perfectly weighted ball with the outside of his boot through to Raheem Sterling.
The 19-year-old looked to square for Balotelli with what was surely the final kick of the game, only to see the ball deflect into the back of the net via the
unfortunate Steven Caulker.
An amazing end to an amazing game – one in which Liverpool were extremely fortunate to pick up three points. Huge improvements will have to be made and made fast, especially with European champions Real Madrid arriving at Anfield on Wednesday evening.