BRENDAN RODGERS has defended Luis Suarez after the Liverpool striker was accused of cheating in the FA Cup tie with Mansfield Town.
Suarez bundled in his 19th goal of the season during the second half of yesterday’s third round tie at the One Call Stadium to put the Reds into a 2-0 lead against the non-league side.
Mansfield’s players protested after the Uruguayan’s initial shot deflected back and hit him in the arm.
But referee Andre Mariner ruled the handball was not deliberate and allowed Suarez to pass the ball into an empty net.
Mansfield’s fans were incensed and chanted “cheat” at the 25-year-old.
Rodgers saw the ball hit Suarez’s hand but agreed with the official’s decision that there was no intent.
Mansfield boss Paul Cox also refused to blame Suarez, saying the handball was merely “instinctive”.
“It has hit his hand, no question about that, but it was not deliberate,” said Rodgers.
“That was the feeling I got. I have asked the fourth official if it was handball and he said it did hit his hand but it was not deliberate.
“I thought the officials were excellent and Andre Marriner did not deem it deliberate handball.
“It ends up being the winning goal and came on the back of a good move.
“The game should’ve been out of sight by then.”
Asked if Suarez should’ve owned up to the handball, Rodgers replied: “I don’t know what people want him to do in that situation.
“It was not deliberate and it is the job of the officials to deem it deliberate or not.
“They clearly know it has hit his hand.
“If this had happened to someone else, would we be talking about it in this detail?
“I only want to talk about his talent.”
Rodgers praised the determination shown by his players as they had to withstand periods of sustained pressure from the Conference hosts.
Matt Green’s strike 10 minutes from time made for a nervy finish but Liverpool hung on to book their place in the fourth round where they will meet Oldham Athletic.
But the Reds boss reserved praise for Mansfield as well.
“It takes character to come to a place like this,” said Rodgers.
“You have seen it over the years in this competition; games have been very difficult and sometimes more difficult than Premier League games.
“Great credit to the players because they showed great character although the game should’ve been out of sight with the chances we had.
“Credit to Mansfield for keeping in the game as well. We have seen two totally different ways of playing but two competitive teams and thankfully we are through to the next round.
“The Mansfield supporters were brilliant and made it a proper cup tie and you are never comfortable.”