Gerrard fires Liverpool past Wimbledon

Gerrard fires Liverpool past Wimbledon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 12:40 am

Captain Gerrard, right,  with Balotelli

Captain Gerrard, right, with Balotelli

Captain Steven Gerrard underscored his importance to Liverpool with two goals Monday night as his side avoided FA Cup third-round embarrassment by winning 2-1 at fourth-tier AFC Wimbledon in London.

Playing in his first game since announcing that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, Gerrard put the visitors ahead with a 12th-minute header at the 4,850-capacity Kingsmeadow stadium in south-west London.

Wimbledon’s man-mountain centre-forward Adebayo Akinfenwa, a Liverpool fan, stabbed home a 36th-minute equaliser, but Gerrard netted a fine free-kick in the second half to earn Brendan Rodgers’s side a home tie with Bolton Wanderers in round four.

“It is going to be my last time, so I want to go all the way,” said Gerrard, a two-time FA Cup-winner, whose 35th birthday falls on the day of this season’s final.

“This is the beauty of the FA Cup. Form goes out of the window. Wimbledon were honest and gave us a real test.”

Gerrard’s strike prevented Neil Ardley’s hosts from emulating the original Wimbledon’s famous 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final, when Lawrie Sanchez scored the only goal and Dave Beasant saved a penalty from John Aldridge.

But despite defeat, the night proved a triumph for the club, which was formed by supporters in 2002 after Wimbledon were moved 56 miles (90 kilometres) north to Milton Keynes and rebranded as Milton Keynes Dons after failing to find a new ground in the local area.

Having started life in the ninth tier of the English league system, AFC Wimbledon have been promoted five times in the last 11 years and were appearing in the third round for the first time.

“I’ve told the players they have done the club proud, but also they should kick themselves because we are in the business of winning and not being good losers,” beaten manager Ardley told the BBC.

Liverpool manager Rodgers conceded it had been a “tough game”, saying: “Congratulations to AFC Wimbledon. They made it very difficult.”

– Sloppy defending –

Although Rodgers named a strong team, showing only four changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Leicester City on New Year’s Day, it was the hosts who threatened first, with Sean Rigg running onto Matt Tubbs’s flick-on and dragging a shot across goal.

But it was Liverpool who took the lead, with Gerrard spraying a pass wide to right wing-back Javi Manquillo before steaming into the box to meet the Spaniard’s cross with a stooping header.

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