• 'Handball' goal 'steals' match from non-league side
• 'It's not his job to own up,' says Liverpool manager
Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, was forced into another defence of Luis Suárez after the striker's controversial goal put Liverpool into the FA Cup fourth round at the expense of Mansfield Town from the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Suárez's 19th goal of the season, assisted by a clear handball, prompted the Mansfield chief executive, Carolyn Radford, to say it felt like a replay had been "stolen" from her club. Rodgers, though, defended his player. "It's not his job to own up," said the Liverpool manager.
Suárez was subjected to cries of "cheat" from the home crowd and the goalkeeper, Alan Marriott, said the offence was so obvious that some of the other Liverpool players had sympathised. "When you see Luis Suárez laughing as he kicks the ball across the line … he knows himself what happened. Even Stewart Downing said to us that he couldn't believe professional officials missed that. When it turns out to be the decisive goal, it's a sickener for everyone."
Liverpool had been leading 1-0 when Suárez ran into the penalty area in the 59th minute and his effort ricocheted back to him off Marriott. The Uruguayan put out his right hand to pat down the ball, leaving himself an open goal.
"I don't want to be too hard to him because he's a fantastic player and it was instinctive but look at the reaction of all the other players," Paul Cox, the Mansfield manager, said.
"Ours all ran to the referee shouting handball while Suárez blasts the ball into the net in a way that says: 'Yeah, I handled it and the ref's going to rule it out.' I'm a little bit gutted because I think we warranted something out of the second half." But Cox admitted he would have accepted a goal scored like that by one of his players: "I can't be two-faced on that."
Radford said: "I've absolutely enjoyed the day but I have to say it is a little bit like it's been stolen from us. Whether it's deliberate or not, I really do feel that it should be sorted out. We are a very good side and we put up a sterling effort. We are very proud of ourselves and it's very unfortunate that referees and officials can't pick up these things. It should be clarified and sorted out as soon as possible because obviously it wasn't in our favour and we should be going through to a replay at least."
Radford's anger was visible at the final whistle but Rodgers said his player should be absolved of any blame. "It's hit his hand but what do you want him to do in that situation?
"I don't think it's even a discussion [that he should have owned up] and I don't think people would ask the question if it was anyone else.
"The ball has popped up, it's hit him and, after that, it is up to the officials what they do. I said to the fourth official straight away: 'Was that handball?' and he said they had seen it but they decided that it was not deliberate.
"It's not his [Suárez's] fault. But he has a thick skin and I think people are starting to recognise the ability the boy has. He is a brilliant talent as you have seen him in that little cameo when he has scored one and might have scored a number more.
"He is a wonderful professional and we need to appreciate him while he is here. He loves it. He is a great family man and a great player."
Mansfield also felt aggrieved that three penalty claims in two second-half minutes were turned down, each involving the ball striking a Liverpool hand. First Jamie Carragher blocked a Matt Green shot with an arm, then the full-back Jack Robinson fell over on the edge of the box and inadvertently handled, before Joe Allen stopped a Green backheel on the line. "Referees and linesmen have the hardest job in football but you do want them to accept the blatant ones," said Cox.