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Jan 6, 2013

Liverpool gets helping hand vs. Mansfield

The Liverpool manager expresses his relief that his side came out on top after they took on Mansfield Town away.

Luis Suarez became embroiled in a new handball controversy on Sunday when he scored Liverpool's winner in a 2-1 victory to oust non-league club Mansfield from the third round of the FA Cup.

After Daniel Sturridge put Liverpool ahead with a goal on debut in the first half, Suarez extended the lead in the 59th minute by bringing the ball down with his hand before kicking it into the net.

Despite Suarez looking uncomfortable after scoring, appearing to expect the goal to be ruled out, it was awarded and proved to be decisive following Matt Green's later strike for Mansfield.

"There's no doubt it was handball but the referee and the officials ruled it wasn't deliberate," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "I spoke to the fourth official when it was given because I couldn't see and he said it was (handball), so I can only assume they thought it wasn't deliberate."

And Rodgers said it wasn't up to Suarez to ask the referee to rule his goal out.

"It's up to the officials to decide that," Rodgers said. "That's why they get paid as officials."

The goal revived memories of the incident that overshadowed the Uruguay striker's 2010 World Cup campaign. In that instance, he deliberately handled on the goal line to block Ghana from scoring and was sent off. Ghana missed the subsequent penalty, sparking celebrations by Suarez on the sideline, and Uruguay advanced to the semifinals.

While the Ghanaians were furious with Suarez, Mansfield was more accepting.

"I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt and say it's a reaction," manager Paul Cox said, adding: "If it had gone in the other end and one of our players had done it I think we'd have accepted it."

Sturridge, a $19.5 million purchase from Chelsea a few days ago, wasted no time in getting off the mark and helping the Reds into the fourth round -- and another tricky trip to Oldham -- at the expense of their non-league opponents.

It took just eight minutes for Liverpool, and Sturridge in particular, to make their mark. The Stags' defense was scythed open with ease by a delightful through ball from Jonjo Shelvey, and with Sturridge showing a turn of speed in racing on to the pass, he slotted comfortably beyond Alan Marriott from 12 yards.

Within 90 seconds, it should have been 2-0, and effectively game over, as the Shelvey-Sturridge partnership combined again, with the latter clean through on to another incisive defense-splitting pass. On this occasion, however, Sturridge dithered perhaps a fraction too long and shimmied once too often as his eventual crack at goal was beaten away by Marriott at close range.

With Suarez on the bench, Sturridge was given his chance to shine and a minute before the break he again managed to get in behind the home defense from a Shelvey pass, firing in a shot Marriott touched beyond the far post.

Whatever Cox said to his players during the break seemed to do the job as Town gave the Reds a major scare in the opening few minutes of the second half as it besieged Liverpool's area. It was all sparked by a close-range shot from Anthony Howell that Brad Jones nudged past his right-hand post.

It was hair-raising stuff for Liverpool, which eventually drew breath in the 53rd minute on a breakaway which culminated in Sturridge dragging a Downing pass across Marriott. It proved to be his last act of his debut as Rodgers replaced the 23-year-old and Suso moments later with Suarez and Jordan Henderson.

The Uruguayan's introduction paid immediate dividends, but not without typical debate for which he has become renowned. Again Downing was the provider and after Suarez's initial effort was blocked by Marriott, he then used his hand to bundle home the rebound from a couple of yards, sparking appeals from the Town players that went unrewarded.

The game appeared to be petering out towards a natural conclusion until Green struck 11 minutes from time with a right-foot shot from 15 yards that bounced off the turf and beyond Jones, heralding a frenetic finish. The most notable chance saw Matt Green lash a shot goalwards from 20 yards in the first of five minutes of injury time, only for Jones to paw away.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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