BRENDAN RODGERS defended Luis Suarez after the striker was caught up in more controversy by helping Liverpool avoid an FA Cup shock.
Suarez netted a hotly-contested 59th-minute goal that ultimately earned Rodgers’s side a narrow 2-1 win at Conference side Mansfield Town in their third round tie yesterday.
Referee Andre Marriner and his assistants allowed the strike despite the ball having clearly hit the Uruguayan’s right hand before scoring.
And Rodgers believes Suarez, who had only been on the field four minutes as a substitute, should be absolved of any blame for the officials not awarding a foul.
“It hit Luis's hand, there is no question about that, but it wasn't deliberate, that's the feeling I got when I saw it," said the Liverpool manager, whose team now travel to League One side Oldham Athletic in the fourth round.
"Straight away I asked the fourth official if it was handball and he said 'it was, but it wasn't deliberate'.
“I don't think it is a discussion. It is not his job to say it was handball. Would you ask the same if it was any other footballer if it wasn't Luis Suarez?
“If it was someone else we probably wouldn't be discussing it, because the officials clearly felt it wasn't deliberate, which it wasn't. When you see the replays you can see it pops up and hits him.
“But that is something the guy has to put up with. I am not sure what people want him to do in that position.
“I'd only say he's got thick skin, he's comfortable with his life in this country as a football player, and it's part of his life. People are beginning to recognise what a brilliant talent he is."
Daniel Sturridge had marked his Anfield career by putting the visitors ahead after only seven minutes, scoring the quickest goal by a full Liverpool debutant in almost 80 years.
Suarez’s 19th goal of the season appeared to make the game safe until the visitors were made to rue a succession of missed opportunities as Matt Green’s 79th-minute goal ensured a grandstand finish.