Liverpool coast against a lifeless QPR squad on the strength of a Luis Suarez brace and a Daniel Agger header in the opening half-hour.
Liverpool 3: Suarez 10' 16', Agger 28'
The biggest revelation pre-match was that Brendan Rodgers wouldn't be managing Liverpool on the day--he, along with a string of others, came down with the norovirus and headed back to Merseyside to recover. Colin Pascoe took up Rodgers' spot on the touchline, and the starting eleven was at least fairly straightforward, with Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling returning, Steven Gerrard maintaining his death-grip on a spot in the midfield, and Jordan Henderson thankfully breaking through to join Allen and give Lucas a rest.
What unfolded was a rest for nearly everyone involved, as QPR were utterly atrocious, starting almost immediately after the opening whistle and continuing for much of the ninety minutes. Liverpool could have been ahead on three minutes, with Luis Suarez nutmegging Clint Hill before firing on goal, only to have the effort parried by Julio Cesar.
Suarez wouldn't have to wait much longer, though, as he again turned Hill on the edge of the area, this time slotting easily past Cesar to give Liverpool the opener. As was the case with nearly everything Liverpool did on the day, it looked far too easy, and that it came against the QPR captain that had openly questioned his side's commitment was particularly damning.
The Uruguayan's second required a bit more work but was similarly impressive; Stewart Downing played him in on the right, and after a cutback was ricocheted straight back to him by Nedum Onuoha, Suarez made no mistake in tucking it in with his left foot.
Liverpool made it three just before the half-hour mark, with Steven Gerrard's cross finding Daniel Agger in the middle of the QPR penalty box, and the Danish defender heading low to beat Cesar. Liverpool had a remarkably easy time all day playing short corners, and here it led to the final goal of the day as Downing found an unmarked and uncontested Gerrard
From there the let-off was clear, and it rarely led to any sort of threat from the hosts. Their play improved incrementally after the break, with a handful of near-chances created--mostly by Adel Taarabt--but no final product coming. Pepe Reina made a few saves here and there, and Liverpool wasted a number of chances of their own, but in the end Liverpool cantered to a safe 3-0 win, and closed out a difficult calendar year on a positive note.
There's probably plenty of nit-picking to be done after today, but I'm not really in the mood to find fault with what essentially turned into a easy run-out for the last hour or so of the match. It was clear that the match was there for the taking, and Liverpool did exactly what they need to to ensure a win. Liverpool's ability to finish early completely took the wind out of a sail-less QPR, and an easy victory to wrap up 2012 is more than welcomed.
The work of Luis Suarez was obviously the main talking point for the visitors, as he made quick work of the QPR defense and collected an easy brace. It seemed that he'd have much more before the day was out, but two proved more than enough as he excelled despite the struggles of Raheem Sterling and a fairly anonymous day by Stewart Downing. Jordan Henderson was next best on the day and continued his excellent form of late, pressing and harrying QPR when they were in possession and playing some smart one-touch football when allowed. His work in attack is still lacking, but he needs to play more, and he needs to be doing that with Liverpool after January.
Defensively little was asked, but Pepe Reina was conscious when needed and each of the back four were solid as well. Jose Enrique's hamstring injury (which is confirmed as a tear by Colin Pascoe) is concerning, though, and with Jack Robinson nowhere to be found it looks as though Stewart Downing will be doing a job again unless the formation changes ahead of Wednesday. Lucas' absence for most of the match proved to be a non-factor, and while neither of Steven Gerrard or Joe Allen had their best displays, they did well, with the captain managing a positive contribution at both ends.
That's it for 2012, and for Liverpool hopefully it's off to bigger and better things. The pieces are there, and as we saw today--even if the opposition was barely interested in playing--they're capable of doing some very good things. They'll need to do that on a more consistent basis if things do get bigger and better, and hopefully that's in store for 2013.