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Liverpool boss Rodgers backs Suarez in handball row

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says it isn't up to striker to do officials' jobs for them and complains star is stalked by controversy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 3:04am
 

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers begrudgingly admits that if there's controversy, his star striker Luis Suarez is always in the thick of it after the latest storm to engulf the Uruguayan.

Suarez was at the centre of events as the Reds survived a rocky ride at fifth-tier Mansfield Town in the FA Cup third round, handling the ball in scoring what proved to be the winner in a 2-1 victory.

Suarez has been no stranger to controversy since his arrival in England in January 2011 and Rodgers accepted it just had to be him again.

"It always is, isn't it?," he said. "If it was someone else we probably wouldn't even be discussing it. Sometimes these sorts of things will follow players.

"That's part of his life. He deals with it remarkably well. He's got thick skin. He's had it throughout his life and his career in this country."

However, the Northern Irishman insisted that despite Suarez's bad reputation, people were beginning to appreciate his exceptional talent - and they should enjoy it while it lasts.

"I think what people are starting to recognise now is the ability that the boy has," he said.

"He's had seven yellow cards this year but he hasn't warranted all seven.

"He's a wonderful professional. I think in this country we need to make sure we enjoy it while he's here because he's a brilliant talent and he's a good man as well.

"I obviously try and educate the players in every aspect of their lives and he's very receptive.

"He's someone who wants to come in every day and work."

Rodgers said referee Andre Marriner clearly felt that the handball was not deliberate and it was not down to Suarez to intervene.

"It's not his job to do that," he said. "I'm not sure what people want him to do in that situation. It's not actually up to him. That's the job of the officials."

Suarez got his 19th goal of the season in the 59th minute at Field Mill, just five minutes after coming on as a substitute.

He replaced England striker Daniel Sturridge, who scored seven minutes into his Liverpool debut having made a £12 million (HK$149 million) switch from European champions Chelsea.

Mansfield's top scorer Matt Green pulled one back in the 79th minute to ensure a thrilling finish to what was a pulsating and entertaining cup tie.

Eighth-placed Liverpool's next match is at league leaders Manchester United, with Norwich at home and then Manchester City and Arsenal away.

And the sequence of matches could prove crucial to the Reds' fortunes this season.

"They're tough games. We'll be in better condition for them than we were earlier in the season," Rodgers said.

"This is a team that's getting better every day. We're all really looking forward to the second part of the season.

"Our continuity and our game are getting better and the more we work with each other, the better we become."

Mansfield were relegated from the fourth-tier League Two in 2008 and after running Liverpool close, must now get back to the challenge of returning to the Football League.

And for Stags manager Paul Cox - who got married on Friday and turned 41 on Sunday - the daily grind starts again when the players return to training today.

"I'm gutted," he said. "This was a great day. The lads got something out of it - memories, dreams - but the bread and butter for us is league football and we'll come back down to earth with a massive bump.

"We've got to be consistent now. If we do that, we'll be in among the pack going for promotion. That's our main aim."

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