Yesterday’s third round FA Cup third round ties produced some superb action and also controversy.
Premier League Liverpool scraped a 2-1 victory at non-league Mansfield.
Liverpool were ahead on seven minutes. Jonjo Shelvey found new boy Daniel Sturridge, who fired past Alan Marriott on his debut.
Liverpool had other chances, but were denied by the Mansfield keeper on numerous occasions in the first half.
Mansfield came out fired up in the second half and dominated possession for the opening period of the second period. The Stags had a number of claims for penalties turned down early in the second period.
Despite Mansfield early second half domination Liverpool scored the second goal in the 59th minute. Substitute Luis Suarez had a near instant effect on the game. The Uruguayan broke through on goal only to see his initial effort saved by Alan Marriott; the striker then handled the ball and fired home from close-range.
He almost looked like he expected the referee to rule the goal out, but despite protests the goal was allowed to stand, another controversial incident to add to the rap-sheet of Suarez.
Mansfield didn’t give up though and got their reward in the 79th minute. Substitute Colin Daniel produced a cross that was knocked back to Matthew Green who fired past Brad Jones in the Liverpool goal.
The home side gave the visitors a few late scares, but couldn’t find an equaliser. I can’t help thinking that the non-leaguers will feel very really aggrieved by the manner of their defeat.
I have to applaud Mansfield boss Paul Cox for his dignified response to the Suarez handled goal. Cox refused to criticise the Uruguayan and instead praised his quality. The comments showed real class on the part of Cox, when he had every right to lambast the controversial striker, he didn’t.
Elsewhere, Swansea and Arsenal drew 2-2 at the Liberty Stadium. The two teams sounded each other out in the first half and produced very little notable action. However, the second half produced far more action.
Swansea’s star player Michu was rested due to a slight back injury, but the Spaniard stepped off the bench in the 56th minute. The Swans star player took just two minutes to open the scoring.
The attacker broke through the Arsenal defence far too easily, before firing low past Wojciech Szczesny. It was another substitute Lukas Podolski that struck the Gunners equaliser in the 81st minute, the German scoring with a low shot past Michel Vorm.
The Gunners took the lead in the 83rd minute. England international Kieran Gibbs played a lovely one-two with French international Olivier Giroud and the full-back smashed a fantastic volley past Vorm.
The home side equalised with just three minutes remaining. Kemy Agustien’s corner found Ki Sung-Yueng at back post and the South Korean found in-demand striker Danny Graham who beat Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.
There was still time for the Gunners to nearly snatch the victory. Michel Vorm produced a superb one-handed save from a Laurent Koscielny header, after Theo Walcott found the French defender with a corner kick.
The two teams will have to meet each other in a replay in a bid to face Championship Brighton in the fourth round, after the Seagulls defeated Newcastle 2-0 in the third round.
League Two Cheltenham host Premier League Everton this evening looking to cause a major shock. Everton boss David Moyes is likely to field a slightly weakened side, but is unlikely to make wholesale changes after experiencing a number of defeats in cup competitions by lower league opposition.
Cheltenham are fourth in League Two and are in decent form going into the fixture. On paper this should be a simple victory for the Toffee’s, but this is the FA Cup and anything can happen. Just ask Luton and Macclesfield.
Is Luis Suarez now the most controversial player in football?