Harry Redknapp puffed out his cheeks, muttered an expression of disbelief to Joe Jordan at his side, then slumped back against the dugout with a shake of his head in disgust. This mismatch was less than half an hour old and Queens Park Rangers were already embarrassed having just conceded a third goal, a thumping header by Daniel Agger. The centre-half was unmarked, though that was not surprising. Rangers' attempts at resistance had long since disintegrated. This team are sinking without trace.
The QPR manager offered something approaching bullish optimism afterwards, saying his team can still survive, but recovery from a defensive display this shambolic seems improbable even with January and another potential transfer frenzy only a couple of days away. Their solitary league success, against Fulham earlier this month, generated hope that appears cruel in the context of a third successive defeat, form that better sums up Rangers' campaign to date. Three clubs have survived having been bottom on New Year's Day in the 20 years of the Premier League but there has to be a spark to instigate a revival and there was simply no real sign of progress to be seen.
The prerequisite for a struggling side, principally tightening up at the back, had been abandoned here amid the desperation to register a victory. Redknapp acknowledged that, having belatedly hauled off Djibril Cissé with the game lost to avoid suffering a drubbing from which confidence might never have been restored. "We were never going to win 4-3, so I shut up shop," he said, explaining the half-time substitution. "Maybe I should have done that from the start, but we wanted the win and had been open and attacking." Luis Suárez had already torn the home side to shreds by then with the Uruguayan's team-mates revelling in the wide open spaces at his back.
Even when trying to be upbeat, Redknapp could only describe this as "a doing", the first time his side have been truly overrun and outclassed over his six weeks in charge. The eight-point gap from 17th place is a gulf, with this performance arguably every bit as abject as the surrender to Southampton in Mark Hughes' last game in charge in November. Redknapp has not had a chance to wheel and deal as yet but he will be the third successive QPR manager to survey a transfer window with a sense of desperation, players stacking up at the training ground, though the reality is reinforcements are required.
Clint Hill and Ryan Nelsen are seasoned professionals and utterly committed but, at 35, slippery forwards such as Suárez can and will humiliate them. Both full-backs selected here, Armand Traoré and Nedum Onuoha, looked like broken men defensively. José Bosingwa, a European Cup winner in May, is now "injured" and has been since he refused to sit on the bench against Fulham. Fabio da Silva, on loan from Manchester United, was cast on late but is unfamiliar with relegation scraps. As, indeed, are a number of a party recruited from Real Madrid and Internazionale. One of those, Julio César – recalled for Rob Green, who wallowed miserably on the bench – cannot perform heroics alone. There is imbalance all around, and a trip to third-placed Chelsea to come on Wednesday. They scored eight the last time they trotted out at Stamford Bridge.
It feels ridiculous to have originally considered this contest an opportunity to kickstart the recovery, as Rangers had against this opposition so memorably last term. Liverpool had arrived mid-table and with the norovirus apparently festering in their midst; the manager, Brendan Rodgers, and No2 goalkeeper, Brad Jones, were quarantined and sent back to Merseyside earlier in the day at risk of infecting the entire party. The assistant, Colin Pascoe, also under the weather, was not allowed into the changing room either pre-match or at half-time by the club's medical staff in case he spread the bug and yet they still ran riot.
Suárez, a forward scouted heavily by Redknapp's Tottenham Hotspur while at Ajax, rejoiced in the freedom of Loftus Road. His clever drift away from Hill 10 minutes in to collect Stewart Downing's pass, before tearing at and beyond the back-pedalling centre-half, set the tone. The finish was precise and the hosts already looked in pieces. Within six minutes he had wriggled to the byline, cutting back towards Raheem Sterling in the centre. Onuoha's lunge denied the former QPR youngster but merely set up Suárez to thrash in a second. "He's a magician," said Steven Gerrard, even if an apprentice might have prospered against these opponents.
Agger's header as QPR dawdled at another short-corner routine completed the scoring, though Nelsen twice cleared attempts from his goalline, with the visitors content in their superiority. They will unveil Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea, and most likely Blackpool's Thomas Ince once the window opens this week. Rangers will not have the same leeway in the market but whatever additions they do secure must make an immediate impact before this miserable campaign unravels entirely.
Man of the match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)