Mansfield boss Paul Cox refused to condemn Luis Suarez as a cheat in the wake of the Uruguayan’s latest controversial moment in English football.
Cox, though, was left “gutted” for the club and his players at the 59th-minute handball from Suarez that clinched Liverpool’s place in the fourth round of the FA Cup at the expense of the non-league Stags.
Debutant Daniel Sturridge, a £12million buy from Chelsea in the past few days, set the Reds on their way to the 2-1 win with a fine eighth-minute opener.
It was Suarez, though, that was all the talk after a match that had Cox questioning referee Andre Marriner and his assistants.
“Their second goal, that’s when you need a referee or a linesman to spot those kind of things,” said Cox.
“I don’t think he (Suarez) did anything wrong. It was instinctive centre forward play.
“But if you look at the body language of players, all my lot are running to the ref and linesman and Suarez is blasting the ball in the net to say ‘I’ve just handballed that’.
“I don’t want to say anything bad about him because he is a fabulous talent, and if the shoe was on the other foot then we would have taken it.”
Although the Mansfield fans chanted “cheat” at Suarez, Cox added: “I don’t want to get involved in that. What he did was instinctive.”
Despite the taunts from the fans, Rodgers has admitted to Suarez ignoring them given what he has been through since arriving in the Premier League.
“I’m not sure what anybody wants him to do in that situation,” said Rodgers.
“It (the ball) hit his hand, there’s no question about that, but it wasn’t deliberate.”