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Liverpool keeps up chase

Liverpool survived a spirited second-half fightback by Queens Park Rangers to stay on the fringe of the Premiership title race with a victory which seriously loosened Rangers' grip on their top flight status.

 

Roy Evans' Anfield aristocrats refuse to throw in the towel, although they are 11 points behind leaders Newcastle, who have a game in hand.

 

QPR's situation is critical after their seventh successive Premiership defeat. Ray Wilkins' outfit have just a dozen tension-filled matches left to salvage their Premiership status but the signs are not encouraging. They have 18 points -- at the same stage last season relegated Ipswich had 23, Norwich 37, Crystal Palace 31 and Leicester 21.

 

Rangers played some bright football but lacked composure in front of goal. Danny Dichio and Trevor Sinclair both wasted point-saving chances by ballooning over at the end of thrilling runs as Liverpool struggled to cope under heavy second half pressure.

 

Rangers might even have scored as early as the second minute but fortune never seems to favour out of touch teams. Dichio robbed John Scales and pulled the ball back for Kevin Gallen whose drive rebounded from David James legs. Nigel Quashie pounced on the rebound to fire in another goal-bound effort which was blocked by Jason McAteer.

 

Rangers paid a heavy price for their profligacy. After the superb Stan Collymore had skimmed the crossbar with a 25 yard effort, Liverpool snatched the lead.

 

It is a sign of their ambition that their central defenders are always willing to lend a hand in attack. When Scales' 15th minute effort diverted off Ian Holloway, the ball fell obligingly into the path of Mark Wright, who beat Juergen Sommer for his first goal of the season.

 

Then it was the turn of the Collymore-Robbie Fowler combination. Fowler outpaced Danny Maddix for Collymore's splendid 30th minute pass, touched the ball past the advancing Sommer and rolled it into the empty net.

 

Fowler aimed a couple of headers narrowly over the top before Dichio revived Rangers with a 66th minute shot that cannoned past James off Phil Babb.

 

Rangers attempted to turn up the heat but with star man Sinclair clearly below par they rarely looked like snatching the equaliser that would have meant so much to the Loftus Road fans.

Liverpool boss Roy Evans removed 25 goal Fowler and replaced him with Jamie Redknapp, whose 15-minute run out was his first taste of senior action since being injured playing for England in November.

 

Ray Wilkins admitted he is worried about QPR's situation after their latest Premiership defeat by Liverpool today. Rangers face relegation after seven successive Premiership defeats and Wilkins said: "Of course I am very concerned about what is going on here. Who wouldn't be in my position? I thought we worked hard to get ourselves back into the game but you can't afford to give a team like Liverpool a two goal lead and expect to get back in the game.

 

Unhappy Roy Evans was pleased with only one aspect of the afternoon for Liverpool -- the three points that keeps them on the fringe of the title race. "This was not one of our great performances," he said. "We didn't seem to get going at all. I am very disappointed because we were generally below par especially in the second half. The highlight of the day for me was the three points, but for us to have any chance we have got to keep winning -- and then Newcastle will still have to slip up. They can only lose it now. We gave Rangers glimmers of hope too many times by taking our feet off the accelerator. When we were 2-0 up we thought we had the game won."

Liverpool's Jason McAteer added: "We knew they would come out in the second half so we tried to keep the ball and keep the pressure up."

Asked on the significance on today's victory on the title race, McAteer replied: "Newcastle and Manchester United both won at the weekend so we needed the points to keep with them."

"Newcastle are going to win the title if they keep winning their games so all we can do is try and keep with them in case they slip up."

 

Copyright - "Press Association"

 

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