Today, the third round of the FA Cup included two very different matches. Arsenal and Swansea, both English Premier League teams, exhibited a Spanish “beautiful game” style of play. Liverpool vs. Mansfield Town was a frustrating show-down between an EPL giant and a 5th level league team.
The FA Cup is the only realistic option for Arsenal to win a trophy. The club are desperate to win something this season considering the former league leader hasn’t won a trophy in almost eight years. Today’s draw with Swansea means another match-up against the Swans, which is not exactly an ideal path to trophy territory for the Gunners.
Spotty and inconsistent throughout the season, Arsenal morale has been suffering and there is much work to do. The absence of Robin van Persie has been sharply felt, especially considering he has been acting as the savior of Manchester United, keeping them at the top of the league almost single-handedly.
The second match of the day between Liverpool and Mansfield Town was a much more exciting and controversial game. Everything about the Mansfield host team and town screamed underdog. The former mining town residents, hit hard by the economy, showed the same undying football passion as their players. One couldn’t help but support them.
Being part of a fifth level team means the Mansfield players all have full time jobs that aren’t part of football. They are like a glorified rec team which advanced to the third level of the Cup to face one of the most decorated clubs in English football. And they could have tied or even won.
Even though the Reds scored first, it was the second goal, a contentious goal, that should have taken the life out of the hosts. Luis Suarez’s blatant hand-ball, leading to a second goal, was pure injustice. The fact that after the goal, the striker had the nerve to kiss his wrist should get the player fined or even banned in my opinion. It was the third Liverpool handball that hasn’t been called, but somehow the Stags didn’t lose their resolve.
Down two goals, Mansfield finally got one back late in the second half. I believe they had enough fight and determination to carry them through to the fourth round, had it been a fair match. But such is the life of football. It is difficult to watch games like these, yet the final score was 1-2 and Liverpool advanced.