MAGNIFICENT MANSFIELD LOSE THRILLER TO LIVERPOOL
FA Cup Round 3
Mansfield Town 1 - 2 Liverpool
Green 79. Sturridge 7, Suarez 57.
Attendance: 7,574 (1433 from Liverpool)
Date: 6 January 2013
Martin Shaw and Simon Chamberlain at the One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town put on a fabulous show against Liverpool in the FA Cup third round in front of a huge worldwide TV audience and a passionate crowd at The One Call Stadium. The Stags were nervous early on, and behind to a goal from £12 million new signing Daniel Sturridge, and had to rely on some magnificent saves from Alan Marriott to keep the tie alive. The Stags battled their way into the game and after the break had Liverpool on the rack for 13 minutes with a glut of glorious chances before Liverpool made in 2-0 on the break with a goal by Luis Suarez that was a blatant handball and left Mansfield with a mountain to climb. The Stags regrouped and came back hard, fully deserving a goal from Matt Green on 79 minutes, and if the Stags had equalised it would have been no more than they deserved as Liverpool looked shaky and Green sent in a terrific effort in stoppage time that was brilliantly saved. A fantastic performance from the Stags, of spirit, fight, passion and one to make the fans proud. Every player was excellent and deserved the opportunity of a replay at Anfield but it wasn't to be, and the Stags are left with memories of a great day, and plenty to look forward to with so many important league games coming up. If Mansfield can produce any sort of form like this, then a charge towards the play-offs is certainly on. Come on Mansfield!
Stagsnet report in the Match Centre
Match Report: Mansfield Town handed a hard lesson in injustice by Liverpool's Luis Suarez
Mansfield Town 1 Liverpool 2: Stags' dreams are cruelly broken after controversial goal breaks fans' hearts
by Tim Rich
Nestled next to Mansfield Town's ground is a shop called Dreams and over its door was a sign announcing it was closing down. It was a metaphor of sorts.
They were wild, ridiculous and improbable dreams and they took such a long time to flicker and fade. Mansfield lost gloriously and controversially.
The tie climaxed with men dressed in what Mansfield's young chief executive, Carolyn Radford – who had once worked for Gucci – called "our beautiful kit" hurling themselves forward, knowing they were being eliminated by an injustice.
The match ended much as the second half had begun, with the non-league side repeatedly attacking the five-times champions of Europe, who had been utterly dominant before the interval.
Mansfield's manager, Paul Cox, had got married on Friday and whatever words he employed in his wedding vows could not have been more stirring than the ones he reached for in the dressing room.
His players, who had been overrun by the combination of Daniel Sturridge and Jonjo Shelvey, emerged as a team transformed. Brad Jones saved dramatically, Jamie Carragher cleared desperately. Then Liverpool broke away and broke Nottinghamshire hearts.
Stewart Downing put Luis Suarez through. Alan Marriott parried and so did the Uruguayan, only this time he used his hand to do it, smiling as he smashed the ball into an unguarded net. The outrage he caused when kissing his wrist was misleading. It was the way he celebrates every goal, kissing the name of his daughter.
However, everyone, from the Liverpool players gathering around Suarez, the two managers standing in front of Field Mill's abandoned fourth stand and the crowds jammed into the other three expected the whistle to blow. Nothing happened and cries of "cheat" began to fill the night air.
It was a tie that deserved better and was almost closer than Liverpool's last visit to Field Mill, a League Cup tie in September 1970 that finished in a goalless draw. Since Bill Shankly's side struck the frame of the goal five times, it could hardly be called dull.
Nevertheless, by the time the tie was eight minutes old, Daniel Sturridge had become the quickest Liverpool debutant to score since George V was handing out the FA Cup at the Empire Stadium and Marriott was telling himself he was facing a "cricket score".
Its origins lay in a fabulously timed ball from Shelvey through to Sturridge, who very calmly and very confidently took his second touch as a Liverpool player, scored his first goal for the club and his ninth in a dozen FA Cup games.
Brendan Rodgers' tactics of employing Shelvey at the centre of three midfielders was something Mansfield never came to terms with in the opening 45 minutes. A pitch that Cox joked should have been soaked with water to cut it up more, played very much to Liverpool's liking.
Once more, Shelvey, who has been lethally effective against anything less than top-class opposition this season, put Sturridge through. However, the debutant hesitated, thinking he was offside, and allowed Marriott to narrow the angle and block.
Sides looking for a cup run might not appreciate fielding a player called Exodus but Exodus Geohaghon's long throws, which were greeted with a stamping of feet in the stands, began to give Mansfield a foothold in the tie and 13 minutes from time, Matt Green forced the first save from Brad Jones.
Had Liverpool not been controversially two goals to the good when he scored, it might have been more than a cherished memento. It was still in the young striker's words "something you dream about when you are a nipper". Colin Daniel crossed, Lee Beevers volleyed it back across Jones's goal and Green did the rest. For the final 11 minutes the scent of justice was in the air.
When the final whistle went, it still lingered, although Cox, who was convinced Mansfield might have had a penalty for one of two "blatant" handballs, had his reactions absolutely right. He did not attack Suarez for obeying the natural instincts of a centre forward but added: "I am 41 and I am not going to celebrate losing a football match but there are a lot of positives today."
They were to be found in the reaction of his players after the interval and in the way the club staged the tie. They left 96 seats empty as a mark of respect to the dead of Hillsborough and played Liverpool's battle hymn before following "You'll Never Walk Alone" with their own song, Elvis Presley's "The Wonder of You".
Mansfield's owners, Carolyn and John Radford, had said in the match programme that was being sold by the box-load outside the ground that, apart from the Olympic gold Rebecca Adlington won in the pool in Beijing, the town had "struggled to find beacons".
Yet as the lights shone out over what DH Lawrence, who lived a short drive from Field Mill, called "this once-romantic and now utterly disheartening colliery town", the beacons glowed.
Anthony Howell's shot at the near post was pushed away for a corner; another attempt was blocked by Carragher; another from Louis Briscoe was saved. This was the FA Cup in its raw glory.
Had Mansfield won, the betting firm, Blue Square, had promised to send Cox on the honeymoon of his dreams. However, when he woke this morning he would have been happy with two weeks in Bridlington. They were that good
Paw form: Mansfield knocked out as Suarez sparks ANOTHER handball controversy
6 Jan 2013 18:36
Daniel Sturridge grabbed a first Reds goal, but his replacement stole the headlines as brave Mansfield went out
Out on a limb: Luis Suarez handles as he scored the decisive goal to eliminate Mansfield Out on a limb: Luis Suarez handles as he scored the decisive goal to eliminate Mansfield
You've got to hand it to Luis Suarez – he knows how to make an entrance!
Like a classic pantomime villain, the Liverpool striker effortlessly embraces controversy. And in this combustible, fervently exciting Cup tie, he didn't disappoint, with what some would suggest was a cynical handball that broke Mansfield hearts.
The Uruguayan didn't even start the tie, yet within seconds of his introduction he had reduced the One Call Stadium audience to apoplectic hissing and booing, and the unlucky home side to the status of wronged losers.
Daniel Sturridge scores past Alan Marriott of Mansfield Town Debut Danny: Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring
The moment that defined this game came within three minutes of him replacing debut goalscorer Daniel Sturridge on 56 minutes.
With a revived Mansfield building a pulsating head of steam after a shaky start, a major upset looked possible as the stunned visitors slumped on to the ropes.
But Suarez delivered the knockout blow with a decisive flourish of his right hand which, to be fair to him, was an instinctive rather than calculated attempt to control a clearance from Mansfield keeper Alan Marriott, and roll the ball almost sheepishly into the empty net.
Liverpool supporters are wreathed in smoke before their team's English FA Cup 3rd round soccer match against Mansfield Town Smokey Robinson: Liverpool fans watch on
That reaction probably gave the game away, but referee Andre Marriner ignored the obvious clue and inexplicably allowed the goal to stand. Cue outrage from a home crowd whose ire was provoked further when their side managed to claw their way back into the game with a goal from Matt Green 11 minutes from time.
They seemed destined for the most embarrassingly tame of exits as they were outpassed in the first half by a Liverpool side whose dominance could have created a hat-trick for a sharper Sturridge.
After the break it was a different story as the Blue Square Premier side blew a hurricane through the visiting defence, led by the devilish long throws of Exodus Geohaghon which created panic in the visitors' box.
Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox talking to his players before the FA Cup Third Round match at the One Call Stadium Boost: Mansfield Town manager Paul Cox turned his side's fortunes round with his half-time words
They created at least five chances in an eight-minute period, and could have had a penalty when the ball appeared to strike Jamie Carragher's arm as he blocked Anthony Howell's shot. Reds boss Brendan Rodgers spotted the obvious danger signs and sent on his cavalry – and Suarez scored with virtually his first touch.
His handball was unfortunate for Mansfield, as was the fact that the striker naturally unveiled the celebration he performs after every goal he scores, when he kissed his daughter Delphino's name tattooed on his wrist.
Imagine the anger of the home fans who didn't know that, and assumed the striker was taunting them. In his typically relaxed way, he probably wondered what all the fuss was about.
The goal pumped up the crowd to boiling point and produced an emotional cup tie that will live long in the memory. As the Mansfield manager Paul Cox and their keeper Marriott both stressed afterwards, Suarez acted instinctively and didn't cheat, but it was still a cruel blow that cut even deeper when Green scored to set up a grandstand finish.
Liverpool were put under pressure all afternoon by the home side's direct approach and dangerous set-pieces. When they failed to clear a free-kick, Lee Beevers sent the ball back in for the talented striker to score from close range.
Matt Green celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the FA Cup Third Round match at the One Call Stadium Stag do: Matt Green pulled one back but it wasn't to be for Mansfield
That left the Reds clinging on, which they just about did despite an incessant late bombardment. No one could have predicted such a tense finish in the first half when Liverpool simply strolled and Sturridge dazzled.
As debuts go, it was something approaching a dream for the striker, given even he expected to be anchored to the bench. It is the fastest goal from the start of a game by a Liverpool player making his debut since 1935, when Bob Glassey set a Reds landmark.
Sturridge instantly established his credentials with team-mates who must be sceptical about the idea of the young England man shifting Suarez from the central position where he has struck such a rich vein of form.
After the break though, his lack of fitness told, and Suarez was the perfect back up plan, as he tormented the home defence – in more ways than one.
Tribute to the 96
Mansfield paid tribute to the Hillsborough victims by leaving 96 seats empty yesterday.
The original High Court verdict of accidental death in the 1989 tragedy was quashed last month, clearing the way for a new inquest.
And Mansfield chose to pay tribute to the tragic fans by putting their names on the seats in the section that segregated the two groups of fans in their FA Cup tie. Stags operations director Paul Broughton said: “We wanted to do something in light of what has happened this past year in terms of Hillsborough and as it's been so long since the two sides met.
“One of our fans suggested we place a name on each of the empty seats in the segregation section of the stadium. The idea sent shivers down my spine. It was an amazing idea.”
Latest | January 2013