GUARDIAN – Mansfield Town 1-2 Liverpool | FA Cup third-round match report

For one match only, there was a “This is Mansfield” sign in the tunnel at the ground traditionalists would prefer to remember as Field Mill. The idea was to see if it could have the same debilitating effects as its famous counterpart at Anfield and, at times, there was the distinct sense that Liverpool were not entirely comfortable in this three-sided ground, with its throwback pitch, up-and-at-them opponents and the broken windows in the dugout in which Brendan Rodgers was looking a little uneasy during the second half.It had looked like it might be a cakewalk when Daniel Sturridge marked his Liverpool debut by confidently scoring his first goal for the club but they had started to look decidedly vulnerable before Luis Suárez soothed their nerves with the second. The Uruguayan now has 19 goals for the season but this one should never have been allowed. There was a blatant handball to put himself into the position to score and Mansfield, who themselves had three justifiable penalty claims for handball turned down, can be justifiably aggrieved bearing in mind it was the point of the match at which they were threatening to bridge the gap between the side 93 places higher in the order of English football.As it was, there were still some anxious moments for Rodgers’s team after Matt Green scored with 11 minutes remaining. Green, a bustling striker full of hard running, deserved his goal and almost produced an equaliser with a 25-yard effort in the final moments. Liverpool had been pinned back but nobody, ultimately, could put forward a case for an addition to the ‘Mansfield Town Legends’ commemorated in a free poster accompanying the match-day programme.The prize for Liverpool is a fourth-round assignment against an Oldham Athletic side invigorated from beating Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Mansfield will return to the business of trying to get back into the Football League and the ninth-placed team in the Blue Square Bet Premier can be encouraged by those moments when they enlivened their supporters in a sell-out crowd, not to mention those who could not get tickets so brought stepladders to peer over the side of the derelict terrace that runs along one side of the pitch.Liverpool, however, could also reflect on more missed chances than they will care to remember, particularly in the first half when Mansfield were in danger of being overwhelmed. Sturridge was bright, lively and eager to impress even if, with a touch better finishing in the first half, he probably ought to have spared his new employers a difficult second half. Jonjo Shelvey stood out in particular, passing the ball at times as though he were playing on a bowling green rather than a pitch that looked as though it had been used for grazing cattle.Shelvey’s pass for the Sturridge goal was the outstanding moment of the match, weighted beautifully and containing enough disguise and subtlety to dissect the entire defence. Sturridge ran on to the ball, shaped his body and side-footed his shot past the oncoming Alan Marriott.For the rest of the first half, as the Mansfield goal led a charmed life, it had seemed perfectly plausible that Rodgers had not only restricted Suárez to the role of substitute but had given several others, including Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina, the day off.This was a new, experimental team and that perhaps explains why they lost their way in the second half. Exodus Geohaghon, Mansfield’s towering centre-half, caused pandemonium at times, with his long throw-ins and aerial presence whenever there was a free-kick or corner. Green was a constant menace and though Brad Jones, deputising for Reina, made at least half a dozen saves, he also gave the impression at times of being vulnerable.At the final whistle, one of the Mansfield directors could be seen complaining they had been “cheated”. Suárez had used his hand to make sure he could squeeze the ball past Marriott but the referee, Andre Marriner, missed it and would not back down in the face of prolonged appeals.FA CupMansfieldLiverpoolLuis SuárezDaniel Taylorguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds