FA Cup - Suarez handball shatters Mansfield as Liverpool survive

FA Cup third round, Field Mill - Mansfield 1 (Green 79) Liverpool 2 (Sturridge 7, Suarez 59)

A handballed Luis Suarez goal was the difference between Liverpool and Mansfield in the FA Cup third round as the Reds won 2-1 at Field Mill.

The Uruguayan, seemingly never far from controversy, clearly blocked the ball with his hand after Mansfield keeper Alan Marriott had saved his close-range shot in the 59th minute.

It rolled into the goal and he acknowledged the incident by pointing to his hand as the home fans bayed for a free-kick.

£12 million signing from Chelsea Sturridge opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

A stirring second-half performance from Mansfield saw them pull one back on 79 minutes through Matt Green but they fell just short.

Liverpool will travel to Oldham in the fourth round in late January.

Brendan Rodgers handed Sturridge his debut as Suarez was left on the bench and Steven Gerrard rested from the squad altogether.

It did not take the England striker long to find the net as Jonjo Shelvey, with whom he linked up repeatedly in the first half, played him through and he finished low past Marriott.

Two minutes later he was in again after a weak backpass on a muddy pitch but could not get enough on the ball to stab past Marriott.

It was beginning to look like the Sturridge show as a quarter of an hour in he again sprung the offside trap from a Shelvey pass. The old adage 'too much time' was appropriate as he dallied and Marriot was able to close him down and save.

A famous FA Cup upset seemed remote with Liverpool seemingly at ease as Mansfield toiled in front of them. The Stags had giant defender Exodus Geohaghon to thank for flying back to put off Shelvey when in behind, with Marriott completing the save.

Green, who may provoke Football League interest with this sharp showing, had space 25 yards out to rifle a shot and force a block out of Brad Jones just after the half-hour mark.

On the counter Sturridge motored down the right and cut inside to the byline, where Geohaghon again made a crucial challenge to prevent a cut-back to Shelvey and certain goal.

Sturridge should have made it two on the stroke of half-time, again from a Shelvey pass, as his low shot was tipped wide of the far post.

Mansfield were galvanised by manager Paul Cox at the break and carved out chance after chance in a frenetic few minutes.

Lindon Meikle found Anthony Howell at the near post and his strike was deflected just wide. Another cross, this time from the left, had Jones unsighted by a defender and the ball jumped out of his grasp before being hacked away.

Soon after Green was denied by a last-ditch block then, as Louis Briscoe pounded down the right, diving Liverpool youngster Jack Robinson cut the ball out with his hand right on the edge of the box. Referee Andre Marriner did not give a free-kick or penalty and Briscoe's shot was tipped wide of the near post by Jones.

The Conference National side can point to many decisions that went against them on the night, including another strong penalty shout from the resulting corner: Geohaghon leapt to head thunderously towards goal, Jones blocked and Green executed a brilliant jumping backheel which Joe Allen blocked on the line with his arm.

Liverpool finally broke out of their half on 54 minutes, with Sturridge wasteful in firing wide of the far post, and he was withdrawn for Suarez immediately afterwards.

It took him five minutes to make his mark - but not in ideal fashion. He should have scored his initial chance, but could do nothing about the ball coming off his hand once Marriott saved.

Mansfield kept running but some of the fight had gone out of them - at least until Green got on the scoresheet with 11 minutes left.

Substitute Colin Daniel crossed to the far side of the box where Beevers tapped it back for the striker to fire home via a deflection.

Late on Green was flagged offside when level - Jones made the save anyway - while a series of Geohaghon long throws caused problems but Liverpool held on.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) - He should have scored more, but gave Liverpool fans a glimpse of what he can do and scored on his debut.

PLAYER RATINGS

Mansfield: Marriott 8, Thompson 6, Geohaghon 7, Dempster 6, Beevers 6, Clements 7, Murray 6, Howell 7, Briscoe 7, Green 8, Meikle 6. Subs: Rhead 6, Daniel 7.

Liverpool: Jones 7, Wisdom 6, Robinson 6, Carragher 6, Coates 6, Lucas 5, Allen 6, Shelvey 7, Suso 6, Downing 6, Sturridge 8. Subs: Suarez 6, Henderson 6, Flanagan 6.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS