Vital Report: Liverpool 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Vital Liverpool report from an emotional Anfield on Jamie Carragher's last ever appearance for Liverpool Football Club - a 1-0 Premier League victory against QPR.
On 18th January 1997, a scrawny young Scouser named Jamie Carragher made his full debut at Anfield. He marked the occasion with a headed goal at the Kop end.
Scruffy in appearance and equally rough in terms of footballing style, the youngster stood out more in terms of his cockiness and confidence rather than his silky skills.
Sixteen years and 737 appearances later, Carragher is now a club legend.
Although his career got off to a flying start, a couple of tough years would follow, where his ability would be questioned on a regular basis. It wasn't until the latter part of Gerard Houllier's era that 'Carra' started to make an indelible mark on the club's history.
It was his character and bravery which got him through those lean years, and it is something which Liverpool will miss greatly now that he has retired - some would say prematurely.
Equally, it was his modesty and humility that kept him not only in Liverpool's starting XI - despite numerous signings in his position by the six different managers he has worked under - but also at the top of his profession, throughout a glittering career.
It was an emotional occasion witnessing Carragher's swan song, but there was still a match to win, and win Liverpool did, recording a rather drab 1-0 victory against already-relegated and foot-of-the-table QPR.
The first half contained few chances, but Liverpool did have a goal incorrectly disallowed in only the second minute of the match. Stewart Downing's in-swinging corner fell straight to the smallest man on the pitch, Philippe Coutinho, and TV replays prove that his header crossed the line.
More ammunition for the goal line technology brigade, and who could argue?
Coutinho yet again looked impressive and he always looked the most likely to break the deadlock. On 23 minutes, he duly delivered, when his fine right footed strike stormed into the bottom left hand corner from 25 yards. A brilliant goal.
Apart from a fine run but poor finish by Jose Enrique on 43 minutes, the first half passed by in a relatively uneventful fashion.
Jordan Ibe - making his debut at just seventeen years of age - was having a fine game considering his tender years and complete lack of experience at this level. He received warm applause in particular on 51 minutes when his excellent tracking back and tackle thwarted a dangerous QPR attack.
Ibe just looks like a footballer, with and without the ball. He has that 'something' which good players tend to have; always an unexplainable something, but always visible at the same time.
One of the highlights of the match came on 63 minutes, when Kop hero Jamie Carragher - who was jokingly urged to shoot whenever he received possession - took the crowd up on their offer.
His blockbusting right footed half-volley crashed against the left hand post at the Kop end. Cruel that it wasn't a couple of inches further to the right, but fitting that it didn't find the net given his goalscoring record. The adoring Anfield faithful couldn't believe it.
On 80 minutes, Stewart Downing should have doubled Liverpool's lead, when good work from substitute Suso allowed the young Spaniard to cross dangerously, but Downing could only shoot straight at Armand Traore.
The last notable act of the match came four minutes from time, when man of the moment Jamie Carragher was replaced by Sebastian Coates. His exit sparked a rousing and emotional ovation, and his typical Scouse style thumbs-up to the crowd almost brought a tear to the eye.
Unfortunately, Liverpool have never been able to field 'a team of Carraghers' - as the famous refrain goes. A shame because Liverpool wouldn't have gone 23 years without a league title if it had been possible.
At the culmination of a season where Liverpool have been accused of lacking backbone and fight, the retirement of Liverpool's own man of steel is certainly bad timing.
Carragher is undoubtedly irreplaceable, and watching him scream at his team-mates yesterday made one realise how much the team will miss his organisation and leadership.
It's true that Liverpool won't find another Carragher, but there is no reason why they cannot find another 'talker'.
Now that we have lost Bootle's finest, it's imperative that Rodgers and his new look scouting department find a replacement who can deal with the pressure of replacing 23 Carra Gold. No mean feat.
As for the rest of the team and their overall performance this season, Rodgers will point to nine more points and 26 more goals scored than last season, with an improved league position.
Despite the disappointing performance in cup competitions, Rodgers will rely on the simple statistics above as a real sign of progress, whilst his signings in January also point towards a bright future.
Unfortunately, it will be a future without one of the club's greatest ever servants.
Liverpool's Star Player
Jamie Carragher. A sentimental award, but he did perform well and almost marked his curtain call with a spectacular half-volley.
Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Carragher (Coates 86'), Enrique, Lucas, Henderson, Coutinho (Suso 75'), Downing, Sturridge, Ibe (Borini 64').
So that's what he thinks, how about you? Let us know your thoughts on the game below..
Click here to read Brendan Rodgers' comments on the match
Click here to read Jamie Carragher's comments on the match
Click here to see comprehensive match stats from the game
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