LIVERPOOL’S new striker scored on his debut in an exciting cup victory, but the story here has to be about someone else. After Daniel Sturridge had opened his Reds account in the eighth minute, the momentum in this FA Cup third round tie shifted significantly.
It was transformed from training ground exercise to battlefield operation as Liverpool’s non-league hosts sent them into the next round with shredded nerves.
Also with battered bodies after Mansfield Town laid siege on the Liverpool goal for periods of the second half which must have felt like an age.
Even with a two-goal lead, Liverpool were afforded little time to breathe out or chance to regroup before the next wave of attack.
And when Matt Green cut the advantage in half with 10 minutes to go, the atmosphere around them was ratcheted up to something close to incendiary.
The crowd roared, the air was filled battle cries from the stands and the ground probably felt like it was shaking underneath Liverpool’s feet.
But as the last, missile-like, long throw from Mansfield’s giant centre-half Exodus Geohaghon landed in the area, there was only going to be one man shielding his troops.
Jamie Carragher was brought into a changed side to marshal, lead and for the resilience which has defined his career.
The same qualities Rodgers lamented were missing from the defeat to Stoke City on Boxing Day but against a side built in the Potters’ image, they were there in abundance.
They had to be.
And thank goodness Carragher was there.
The 34-year-old is no longer first choice at Anfield but there is hardly anyone else Brendan Rodgers would have wanted in darkest Nottinghamshire yesterday afternoon.
This was his 41st game in a competition he has won twice in a 15-year career, but rarely will any of the 40 previous ties been as demanding as this on him.
When Mansfield emerged for the second half they did so with gritted teeth, snarling and with fire in their stomachs.
Carragher snarled back.
Rolled up his sleeves and met the challenge head on.
Without him in the team, Liverpool would have been in serious danger of losing to a side 93 places below them in the football pyramid.
His commanding header from that last throw of Mansfield’s dice gutted the Conference National club of any remaining hope and finally Liverpool began to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel have been an excellent partnership over the past couple of seasons but there has to remain a place for Carragher.
Out of contract in the summer, the 34-year-old is considering that these could be his final few months as a player but after yesterday’s act of bravery – which at times bordered on the heroic – Rodgers will surely ask him to stay on for one more campaign.