Sports - Football - FA Cup 3rd Round - AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Liverpool
Captain Steven Gerrard spared Liverpool the blushes and pain of an FA Cup Third Round replay with two goals against League Two side AFC Wimbledon at The Fans' Stadium Kingsmeadow, just days after announcing he was leaving the Reds at the end of the season, ending his 17-year professional career at the club.
The Reds took the lead in the 12th minute with a fine header by their 34-year-old skipper. But Wimbledon forward Adebayo Akinfenwa levelled nine minutes before the break being in the right place at the right time after the ball came off the crossbar.
Neal Ardley's side flourished after that, putting pressure on the visitors creating a load of chances, but it had to be Stevie G. again who gave Brendan Rodgers' men the lead, with a trademark free-kick from the edge of the box with just under half an hour to go.
It proved enough to send the Reds through, although it was a typically nervy, clumsy display, especially at the back. Gerrard played a more attacking role starting upfront in a 3-4-3 line-up, heading Javi Manquillo's cross into the bottom corner to open the scoring with their only clear-cut chance of the half.
Under-fire keeper Simon Mignolet looked shaky as ever and was unable to clear a George Francomb corner, for Barry Fuller to hit the bar and "The Beast" Akinfenwa to slide home the rebound. The 32-year-old 5ft 11in striker and Liverpool fan took most of the attention off the pitch and was THE star in the social media.
But it had to be the one and only Steven Gerrard to save the Reds, first clearing a Adam Barrett chance off the line early on in the second half, before curling a free kick beyond keeper James Shea to make it 1-2.
The Scouse skipper was denied a hat-trick by an injury-time goalline clearance from Callum Kennedy, but his double was enough to send his side through to the next round where they will face Bolton Wanderers at Anfield.
This entertaining encounter did evoke memories of Wimbledon's Crazy Gang's 1-0 FA Cup final win over Liverpool in 1988, but a lot has happened and changed since those times, both teams being a shadow of themselves compared to those glorious days.
The Reds are gasping for form and are looking for changes in all areas to improve their chances of getting anywhere near the top four this season, whilst Wimbledon, irrespective of this result, have reached new highs since their rebirth in the Combined Counties League in 2002 after five promotions saw them back into the Football League in 2011.
AFC Wimbledon: 20 Shea; 27 Barrett, 33 Goodman (booked 70'), 17 Kennedy, 2 Fuller (c) (booked 61'); 7 Francomb (31 Sutherland 86'), 4 Bulman, 8 Moore (12 Pell 86'), 11 Rigg (14 Azeez 79'); 9 Tubbs, 10 Akinwenfa (goal 36') (booked 39'). 4-4-2
Subs not used: 6 Bennett, 23 Oakley, 26 McDonnell, 29 Harrison.
Liverpool: 22 Mignolet; 17 Sakho, 37 Skrtel, 23 Can; 19 Manquillo (3 Jose Enrique 71'), 50 Markovic (4 Toure 86'), 21 Lucas, 14 Henderson; 8 Gerrard (goals 12' & 62'), 9 Lambert (45 Balotelli 79'), 10 Coutinho (booked 76'). 3-4-3
Subs not used: 18 Moreno, 29 Borini, 49 Williams, 52 Ward.
Match Stats: AFC Wimbledon-Liverpool
Taken from the Sky Sports Football Score Centre App
On target: 4-9
Off target: 6-5
Passes: 171/266 (64.3%)-550/643 (85.5%)
Att. 3rd: 59/108 (54.6%)-155/204 (76%)
Key Passes: 10-20
Clear-cut Chances: 2-3
Crosses: 4/24 (16.7%)-4/15 (26.7%)
Dribbles: 3/11 (27.3%)-10/16 (62.5%)
Tackles: 20/23 (87%)-12/14 (85.7%)
Headed Clearances: 8-28
Aerial Duels: 22/43 (51.2%)-21/43 (48.8%)
Blocked Crosses: 3-3
Catches: 1/1 (100%)-1/1 (100%)
Fouls committed: 18-10
Fouls won: 10-16
Yellow Cards: 3-1
Red Cards: 0-0
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Ground: The Fans' Stadium Kingsmeadow