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Suarez in dock as Liverpool avoid FA Cup upset

LONDON, England January 7 – Luis Suarez sparked a new handball storm by helping Liverpool edge non-league Mansfield Town 2-1 in the FA Cup third round, after Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw by Swansea City.

suarez hand ballSuarez came off the bench to double Liverpool’s lead Sunday after Daniel Sturridge had opened the scoring on his debut, but his goal prompted an angry reaction from the fifth-tier hosts, who later replied through Matt Green.

The Uruguay international, who famously used his hand to block a goal-bound shot in a World Cup quarter-final with Ghana in 2010, appeared to stop the ball with his hand in the process of scoring, but the officials let the goal stand.

Liverpool will now face third-tier Oldham Athletic for a place in round five and manager Brendan Rodgers admitted there was more than a touch of fortune to their winner.

“There is no doubt it was handball, but the officials have seen it was not deliberate,” he told ESPN.

“I asked the fourth official if it was handball and he said it was. It is unfortunate for Mansfield and lucky for us we got the goal.”

Sturridge, a £12 million ($19.6 million, 14.8 million euros) signing from Chelsea, broke the deadlock in the seventh minute at Field Mill, running onto Jonjo Shelvey’s pass and beating Mansfield goalkeeper Alan Marriott.

Marriott denied Sturridge a second goal on two occasions in the first half, but the Stags could have drawn level in the 36th minute when Green’s rising drive forced Brad Jones into a flying save.

Mansfield put Liverpool’s goal under sustained pressure early in the second half before the visitors turned to Suarez, who doubled his side’s lead in controversial circumstances in the 59th minute.

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After squeezing between a pair of challenges, the Uruguayan saw an initial shot saved by Marriott but the ball rebounded against his right hand and he stroked it into an empty net despite protests from the nearby defenders.

Green finished on the turn from 12 yards with 11 minutes to play, but Liverpool held on to steer clear of a famous upset.

Mansfield manager Paul Cox said he would give Suarez “the benefit of the doubt”.

“Goal-scorers want to put the ball in the net, and that’s what they do. He’s a fabulous talent and I’d pay to watch him,” he said.

Earlier, Danny Graham poached an 87th-minute equaliser to earn Swansea a 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium in a game that finished amid a rapid exchange of goals.

Arsenal fought back from behind to lead through a quick-fire pair of strikes from Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs in the last 10 minutes, only for Graham to pounce at the death to take the tie to a replay.

Swansea had led through a 58th-minute effort by Michu, scorer of both goals in a 2-0 Premier League win at the Emirates Stadium in December, but Swansea appeared to be heading out until Graham found the roof of the net with three minutes to play.

“We should have won this game,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

“It’s frustrating to concede a goal just like that on a corner, where we couldn’t clear the ball before the corner. Even on the corner, we were first to the ball and didn’t win the ball.

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“We have shown quality and heart and it’s quite good if we can repeat that.”

Michu began on the bench for Swansea, perhaps with an eye on Wednesday’s League Cup semi-final first leg against Chelsea, but he rose from the dug-out to tip the tie in the hosts’ favour in the 58th minute.

The Spaniard had only been on the pitch for a minute and 13 seconds when he collected Nathan Dyer’s knock-down, lobbed the ball over Per Mertesacker, and then beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to claim his 15th goal of the campaign.

Podolski swivelled on a loose ball to level in the 81st minute and Gibbs then slammed in a sumptuous volley from Olivier Giroud’s chipped pass to put Arsenal ahead two minutes later, but Graham had the final say.

The winners of the replay will face a trip to second-tier Brighton and Hove Albion, who eliminated Newcastle United for the second season in succession on Saturday.

Holders Chelsea will face lower-league opposition in the form of either Southend United or Brentford, while either Fulham or Blackpool will await the winners of the replay between Manchester United and West Ham United.

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