Writer: Gavin John Day
Date:Monday January 7 2013
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has praised the character shown by his side in their narrow 2-1 FA Cup victory over non-league Mansfield Town...
Liverpool were severely tested yesterday afternoon in their third round FA Cup tie at Field Mill and endured a nervy end after Mansfield striker Matthew Green pulled a goal back in the 79th minute.
In front of a partisan home crowd, the Stags made light of their non-league status and deserve great credit for the way they battled back after a controversial Luis Suarez goal put the visitors 2-0 up on the hour mark.
The Uruguayan clearly used his arm in controlling the ball before scoring, whether on purpose or not, but the officials seemingly missed the incident and the goal was allowed to stand much to the surprise of everyone involved.
Earlier debutant Daniel Sturridge had scored the opener after only 7 minutes as the Reds dominated the opening half and in truth they should have been much further in front by the break.
Following the game, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers described the contest as being 'more difficult than Premier League games' in some ways.
"It takes character to come to places like this," said the 39-year-old Kop chief at his post-match press conference.
"We've seen over many years in this competition that these games are very difficult. In some ways, they can be more difficult than Premier League games.
"It's a big credit to my players; I thought we showed great character. The game could have been out of sight in the first half with the chances we had. But you've also got to give credit to Mansfield because at 2-0 they kept the game alive.
"There were periods in the second half where we had to show resilience and character. We've seen it over the years in this competition, the big teams going to away grounds of a lower league opponent and coming unstuck.
"Big credit to Mansfield and the town today - the supporters were brilliant and made it a proper cup tie. You're never comfortable. Thankfully we got through and into the next round."
Liverpool will face Oldham Athletic in the next round as they look to book another trip to Wembley but all the headlines will no doubt be dominated by the Suarez incident.
On the matter, Rodgers commented: "It hit his hand, there's no question about that. But it wasn't deliberate.
"Straight away I said to the fourth official: 'Was that handball?' He said it was but it wasn't deliberate. Andre [Marriner, referee] didn't deem it deliberate. It's unfortunate for Mansfield because it ends up being the winning goal.
"I'm not sure what people want him to do in that situation. The ball has hit him - that's the job of the officials, to make the decision whether it was deliberate or not. It's not his job.
"If it was someone else, we wouldn't be discussing it to this detail."
The trip to Boundary Park in the fourth round will be part of a difficult period of fixtures that also sees Liverpool face league matches away to Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Rodgers has however backed his side to do well and predicts the results will be much better than in the reverse encounters at the beginning of the campaign.
"They are tough games. We'll be better and in a better condition for those games than we were earlier in the season," he concluded.
"We picked up one point from those three games, even though we played well in two. We're really looking forward to it.
"This is a team that's getting better every day and every week. The continuity in our game is getting better - the more we work with each other, the better we become. They're big games and we look forward to it."
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Date:Monday January 7 2013
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