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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Fowler defends Suarez over handball

Luis Suarez has received Robbie Fowler's backing over the controversial goal that helped Liverpool to an FA Cup third-round victory at Mansfield on Sunday.

• Walsh: Suarez no villain

Suarez handled the ball before putting it into the net for his side's second goal in the 2-1 victory at the One Call Stadium, although manager Brendan Rodgers argued that he did so unintentionally.

Critics have suggested that the Uruguay international should have owned up to the handball, citing a famous piece of sportsmanship by Fowler. The former Liverpool striker was commended by UEFA in 1997 for urging a referee not to award him a penalty during a Premier League match at Arsenal, admitting that he had not been brought down by keeper David Seaman.

However, Fowler has laughed off suggestions that Suarez should have pointed out the handball to referee Andre Marriner.

He told the Daily Mirror: "If he has to tell the referee he handled, do the defenders have to go and tell the ref every time they foul a striker? It's laughable, it really is.

"Seriously, Suarez did nothing wrong, and I'm amazed at the reaction. I honestly don't even believe he handled deliberately. The ball is smashed right at his hand from very close range, and he'd have needed some reactions to have calculated that one.

"You can see by the way his arm bounces above his shoulder after the ball hits him that he isn't braced for it. That tells you something. I think the way he then knocked the ball into the net, he assumed it would be ruled out, but if there's any criticism, it should be at the referee, not the player.

"He's the one now, isn't he? Everything he does, he'll get criticised for it when, with somebody else, it wouldn't even raise a murmur.

"I think the Mansfield manager and his players summed it up when they said Suarez was just doing his job, and they'd have done exactly the same thing. So would I. It was handball, but instinctive and not deliberate cheating, and you can't criticise him for that."

• Pick your Premier League fantasy squad for the second half of the season now and challenge your friends.

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