STEVEN Caulker’s own goal condemned QPR to a crushing 3-2 defeat at home to Liverpool, rooting Harry Redknapp’s men to the foot of the Barclays Premier League table.
Scorers: QPR - Vargas (87, 90); Liverpool - Dunne (67 og) Coutinho (90), Caulker (90 og)
Eduardo Vargas’ two late goals had QPR edging towards a deserved and creditable draw, only for Caulker to put through his own net in the fourth minute of added time.
Raheem Sterling, who started for the Reds after the controversy over his England omission last Sunday, had burst clear and tried to pick out the supporting Mario Balotelli before Caulker unwittingly turned the ball in to break Rangers’ hearts.
Richard Dunne’s own goal put Rangers behind midway through the second half, despite the hosts dominating the contest.
Vargas equalised with normal time running out, notching his first goal in English football, only for Philippe Coutinho to steal the lead again with a deflected effort.
Summer recruit Vargas put QPR back on level terms moments later, but Liverpool sneaked the final word – and the points – with Caulker the luckless fall guy.
Redknapp declared himself angry at the result but took plenty of heart from his side’s performance.
“We didn’t deserve that, we were fantastic today, absolutely excellent,” he said.
“You hope you can replicate that [in future games] and get the points that the performance deserves but I can’t help but be angry.
“I’m delighted with the performance, I’m proud of the players, they were just fantastic, but they didn’t deserve to come away with nothing.
“It was totally unfair but that’s football and sometimes that’s life but I’m proud of every one of those boys today, they all gave everything.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers echoed Redknapp’s belief that QPR deserved at least a point.
“They certainly didn’t deserve to lose,” he said. “I thought we were very, very lucky to get the win. We showed tremendous character and were a little bit better in the second half but QPR definitely deserved something from the game.”
All eyes were on Sterling at Loftus Road, the forward featuring in the starting line-up after a week in which he had been an almost permanent fixture on the back pages following England manager Roy Hodgson’s revelation that the player had complained of tiredness prior to the qualifier away to Estonia.
However, it was Rangers who bossed the first half, stretching Liverpool time and again, pulling out all the stops bar a goal.
The hosts outplayed, out-thought and outmanoeuvred lacklustre Liverpool, who had serious problems with Emre Can’s link work with Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel. By contrast Sandro dominated proceedings in front of Rangers’ back line, allowing the likes of Leroy Fer to raid effectively off lynchpin Bobby Zamora.
Former West Ham striker Zamora was the clear man of the first half, causing untold problems for Can dropping deep to offer the ideal pivot for Rangers’ attacking blueprint.
Fer should have scored twice in the half, so despite all the promise the hosts will have been frustrated to turn around without a comfortable lead.
Charlie Austin bundled his way clean through only to bungle his finish, even flicking the rebound wide from Simon Mignolet’s parried save.
Liverpool’s malaise consistently emboldened Rangers, who again should have taken the lead when Zamora drifted into the inside-right berth.
After driving deep into the Liverpool box, Zamora dragged back the perfect ball for the onrushing Fer – only for the Dutchman to blast against the crossbar despite plenty of time and space to pick his spot.
Neither side learned their lesson from the incident, Liverpool allowing Zamora to produce another telling right-wing cross only minutes later.
This time Fer beat Mignolet to the centre and headed goalwards, but again his finish was mere paintwork away from breaking the deadlock.
Liverpool finally conjured a serious opening as the half dwindled to a close, Balotelli’s slide-rule pass inviting Steven Gerrard to tiptoe around Caulker. The former England skipper’s curling shot was always heading wide however, leaving both sides frustrated at the break, though for vastly differing reasons.
So nearly the home hero, Vargas ought to have cherished getting off the scoring mark in style, but was left to bemoan a strange quirk of fate.
After Dunne put through his own net, all bedlam broke loose, and in the event the hosts were cruelly and unjustly denied.