Mansfield vs. Liverpool: Officials Miss Call, Luis Suarez Gets Blame

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

Liverpool escaped Mansfield with a 2-1 victory and a spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup Sunday, and because Luis Suarez was involved, controversy arose. 

For a while there, the Uruguayan had been somewhat squeaky clean, but we knew it couldn't last. 

Liverpool were up 1-0 from the eighth minute thanks to a goal from the newest addition, Daniel Sturridge. The Reds striker could've and probably should've added more in the first half, but the nonleague side wasn't going down without a fight. 

The Stags troubled Brad Jones at the end of the first 45 and really turned up the heat at the start of the second half, but Luis Suarez's introduction sorted that out. 

Just before the hour mark, Liverpool countered, and it ended with Suarez bungling the ball into the net after handling it off a rebound from Mansfield keeper Alan Marriott. 

Whether you want to say you know for sure it was intentional or not, it was a clear handball. Suarez was just a yard away from the keeper, but his arm was out. Liverpool's second goal should've been disallowed.

And Suarez probably knew that.

He didn't celebrate his goal, just walked back to the middle of the pitch. Those who thought the Liverpool No. 7 kissing his wrist was a mocking celebration clearly have not seen any of his highlights this season.

ESPN commentator is outraged that Suarez 'showed his hand to the crowd' during his celebration. Obviously never seen him score before.

— Liam Tomkins (@liam_tomkins) January 6, 2013

Suarez was expecting his goal to be called off, but it wasn't. The officials missed a pretty blatant handball, and with Mansfield Town scoring a well-deserved goal 10 minutes from time, it likely cost the nonleague Stags a trip to Anfield, at the least. 

And that's all Luis Suarez's fault apparently. 

Commentators vilified him, and if you were in the States and watching Fox Soccer's post-game show, you would've thought Suarez had murdered someone. 

Warren Barton and his seriously misguided cohorts Rob Stone and Eric Wynalda called Suarez a disgrace and a cheat on the air at the final whistle, and Barton offered plenty of retweets from followers to back up his claim. 

But why are we blaming a player when it's clearly the officials who are at fault here?

Because it was Suarez has a lot to do with it probably. After South Africa, he'll always have a mark on his record. 

But it seems like most people expect professional athletes to be saints. Can't imagine why at this stage. 

However, one such saint, Miroslav Klose, admitted to a handball a few months ago and was praised for doing so. But if that's what people are expecting to become the norm, turn off your TVs because it ain't happening. 

Klose's handball was in the third minute of a league game. When he or any athlete does that with the game on the line, let me know. 

All sports have a little bit of cheating in them. Whether it's blatantly dirty fouls or players trying to con the officials.

The quarterback hurries his offense to the line of scrimmage so the officials don't have time to review whether or not the receiver really caught the ball. Flopping, diving—you name it. It happens in every sport, every game. 

As former United States defender Alexi Lalas states, you're dreaming if you expect the players to admit to that:

Oh it is? Good. Then after games let's have players line up and admit/apologize for the "cheating" they engaged in. RT @spider_boots It is.

— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) January 6, 2013

A defender isn't going to say, "Hey, I was pulling his jersey on that corner. You should give them a penalty." 

That's why we have officials in the first place. They make sure the rules are followed, and every now and then (OK, maybe more often than not), they miss something. 

If anything, this latest incident was yet another argument for instant replay in football. 

A replay of the goal would've showed Suarez handling the ball with his arm away from his body and would've disallowed the goal. Whether you can definitively call it intentional or not is a whole other story. 

Bottom line, Suarez didn't cheat Mansfield out of extending their FA Cup run. The officials did. 

But no one is vilifying them.