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Rodgers defends Suarez after handball

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

Brendan Rodgers admitted Luis Suarez's match-winning goal should not have stood, but defended his striker after Liverpool's victory at Mansfield.

• Marcotti: Suarez missed his chance

• Walsh: Suarez unfairly plays villain

Liverpool set up an FA Cup fourth round clash at Oldham Athletic after they weathered a late storm to triumph 2-1 at the One Call Stadium.

Daniel Sturridge scored on his debut to give Liverpool the lead inside seven minutes, before Suarez doubled their advantage after coming on as a second-half substitute. However, the Uruguyan appeared to handle the ball past Stags keeper Alan Marriott before firing into an empty net.

Boos echoed around the stadium after the goal was allowed to stand, and although the hosts pulled a goal back through Matt Green they could not find an equaliser to force a replay at Anfield.

Rodgers insisted it was not Suarez's place to say he had handled the ball, and the officials should have spotted the offence.

"I have just seen it again and there is no doubt it was handball," Rodgers told ESPN. "I think what the referee and the officials were looking was that it wasn't deliberate, which it clearly wasn't.

"I spoke to the fourth official after the goal was given and asked him if it was handball, because I couldn't see, and he said it was. So obviously it is unfortunate for Mansfield and lucky for us that we got the goal."

When asked if Suarez should have owned up, Rodgers replied: "It doesn't really happen in football, to be honest, you don't see it [happen] and it's not Luis' job to do that. He's gone in there, it hasn't been a deliberate handball - [the ball] pitched up and hit his hand.

"That's up to the officials to deem. That's why they get paid and that's why they are professional officials. Andre Marriner I thought was excellent today along with his officials. It's one of those things that was unfortunate."

Mansfield manager Paul Cox refused to criticise Suarez, admitting if the same thing had happened at the other end of the pitch they would have accepted it.

Asked if he felt it was cheating or an instinctive reaction from the Liverpool striker, Cox told ESPN: "I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt and say it was a reaction, he's a goalscorer and I think goalscorers put the ball in the net anyway. He's a great fabulous talent, I'd go pay to watch him week in and week out. He's a wonderful player.''

Cox also insisted he did not feel cheated, saying: "No I don't. For me to come out and say something like that I think would be quite cheap. If it had gone in the other end and one of our players had done it I think we'd have accepted it.

"This is the FA Cup, this is the beauty of it, sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it doesn't. It's a beautiful game and for me he's a fabulous talent and for this country we're lucky to have him here. I don't think we should call him for doing something that I think 99 out of 100 players would do.''

Regarding his team's performance, Cox said: "I'm proud of my boys, I thought they were a different level second half. I thought we stood off them and let them play in the first half. We've done well against one of the best teams. We've a lot of positives to take out of it.''

Sturridge said of his debut: "I enjoyed it very much. It was great to get to know my team-mates on the field and it was great to win the game. It was a great ball from Shelvey and I just got on the end of it and put it away.

"We showed a lot of character out there so we're delighted with the win.''

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