PHILIPPE Coutinho’s fine first half strike was all that could separate Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool at Anfield as the R’s ended the season with a 1-0 defeat.
The Brazilian forwards 23rd minute wonder goal brought the curtain down on a forgettable season for Rangers supporters that ended in relegation from the Premier League.
Boss Harry Redknapp handed a surprise start to young right-back Michael Harriman at Anfield and the youngster put in a solid 90 minutes in the R’s rear guard.
Whilst the 20-yeard-old defender made his full Premier League debut Anfield also waved goodbye to retiring legend Jamie Carragher.
Harriman was afforded no time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League, having made 20 appearances for Wycombe Wanderers in League Two during a loan spell this season. Firstly the QPR Academy product cleared the danger over Rob Green’s crossbar following a dangerous ball into the six-yard box before clearing off the line from the resulting corner all inside the opening 60 seconds.
Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho forced R’s keeper Green to punch over from a corner before minutes later the Liverpool number 10 won another flag kick after his shot from the edge of the Rangers box was deflected side of the left-hand post.
However, there was no stopping the Brazilian in the 23rd minute when he took aim from a full 25-yards to beat QPR stopper Green in his bottom right-hand corner with a rocket of a strike to put the Merseyside outfit 1-0 up.
Soon after a blocked Carragher shot by R’s midfielder Shaun Derry had the Anfield crowd appealing for a penalty but referee Martin Atkinson waved the claims away before forward Loic Remy went close at the other end. His shot on the turn from outside the 18-yard box sent Reds keeper Pepe Reina sprawling ten minutes before half-time.
Redknapp made a change after the break as Esteban Granero replaced Mbia in midfield and shortly after the substitution Rangers escaped when Green spilled Jose Enrique’s shot from distance before Clint Hill cleared for a corner.
Green was then called into action again when Glen Johnson’s shot inside the area took a deflection off Derry and nearly caught the R’s custodian out. Fortunately for QPR Green batted the effort away despite being wrong footed.
Liverpool turned defence into attack as Granero’s dink over the top was gathered by Reina from the onrushing Remy before Stewart Downing found the side netting for the home side after bursting into the Rangers penalty box on the hour mark.
The home crowd were desperate for Carragher to score on his swansong for the Reds with the one club man being egged on to shoot at every opportunity. He very nearly answered their calls in the 63rd minute when from 25-yards he rattled the QPR post with a fierce shot. Green looked beaten on that occasion but he did well seconds later to turn Sturridge’s shot across goal away from danger as Liverpool continued to heap pressure on Rangers goal.
Substitute Suso was next to test the ex-West Ham man from distance before Townsend sent an effort flying high and wide into the R’s fans behind Reina’s goal ten minutes from time.
Green continued to be the busier of the two goalkeepers and he was again on hand to keep out Liverpool with a fine save to deny Borini before Enrique was the next to fail to get the better of the 33-year-old with a powerful strike from distance as the score remained 1-0.
That was how it finished as manager Harry Redknapp now faces the task of rebuilding his relegated squad over the summer as he bids to mount a serious challenge for promotion in the Championship next term.