Liverpool advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a win against Mansfield Town, but their victory didn't come without a rather healthy dollop of controversy. The story should have been about Daniel Sturridge marking his Reds debut with a goal plus a very credible performance from the minnows on a pockmarked Conference National pitch. Instead, we got another tale about the continued villainy of one Luis Suarez, world's worst human.
After the first seven minutes of the match, it seemed as though the visitors would run away with the scoring with or without their talismanic centre forward. Liverpool had enough possession that Mansfield Town were looking like children scampering around looking for the ball, and it came as zero surprise when the Premier League side took the lead, Daniel Sturridge finishing off a perfect pass from Jonjo Shelvey.
Sturridge had several more opportunities in the first half, but instead of killing off the Mansfield threat, the goal appeared to remind the hosts that there was football to be played and they started posing a credible threat on Brad Jones' goal. The pressure continued to mount throughout the first half and by the start of the second it appeared as though an equaliser was imminent.
And then Suarez struck. On as a substitute, he was found in the centre by Stewart Downing on a quick Liverpool counterattack. His first shot was saved by Alan Marriott, but the second struck Suarez's outstretched hand and bounced back towards the goal. It was then helped into the back of the net by the striker's right boot.
It beggars belief that the officials missed the obvious handball. Intent wasn't entirely clear (although Suarez certainly didn't protest the goal being awarded), but the foul was completely and utterly blatant, and there's no way the goal should have stood. Stand it did, however, and 56 minutes in Mansfield Town found themselves facing a 2-0 deficit. The tie, for all intents and purposes, was over.
And then suddenly it wasn't. Mansfield continued to push forward, and finally got the breakthrough that their play warranted when Matthew Green's shot deflected off Sebastian Coates, hit Jones, and rolled over the line to pull the deficit back to one. But the second goal never came, leaving one very obvious talking point to accompany Liverpool to the fourth round.