Suarez back in the dock as strikers grab FA Cup headlines
FA Cup talking points... from Luis Suarez's handball to Robin van Persie's super strike
NEWCASTLE were the main Premier League casualties in an FA Cup third round that was short on big shocks. But in the absence of any major giant-killing exploits from the lower league sides, Liverpool forward Luis Suarez stepped up to generate one of the weekend's main talking points, while his fellow strikers also got in on the act.
IS SUAREZ TO BLAME FOR HANDBALL?
Mansfield Town's chief executive, Carolyn Radford, claimed that the non-league club had been denied a replay and a place in the fourth round draw after Liverpool's controversial Uruguayan striker clearly handled the ball as he scored the Merseyside club's second goal on Sunday. Suarez burst into the Mansfield box and when the ball ricocheted off keeper Alan Marriott he patted it down with his right hand before firing into an empty net. It turned out to be the crucial goal in a 2-1 win for the Reds. However, Mansfield boss Paul Cox said he did not hold Suarez responsible and instead blamed the match officials for missing such an obvious infringement.
VAN PERSIE STRIKE STEALS COLE'S THUNDER
Suarez's strike may have got tongues wagging, but the goal of the round surely came from the boot of Manchester United's Robin van Persie. The Dutchman saved his side with a wonderful injury time equaliser against West Ham. United were trailing 2-1 with 90 minutes on the clock when Ryan Giggs unleashed an extraordinary, inch-perfect cross-field pass from inside his own half that Van Persie controlled exquisitely on the edge of the Hammers' box before firing past Jussi Jaaskelainen. It stole Joe Cole's thunder on his return to West Ham, but afterwards he described the United forward as "a joy to watch".
DEMBA BA GIVES TORRES FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Demba Ba didn't hang around on his Chelsea debut as he found the net twice against Southampton on Saturday. The Senegal international touched home a goalbound shot from Juan Mata to cancel out Southampton's opening goal and then added another in the second half as Rafa Benitez's team took control of the tie to win 5-1. Quite what Fernando Torres, an unused substitute, made of Ba's debut is unclear, but he obviously faces a fight to win back his place in the Chelsea starting line-up.
MAGPIES BEATEN BY SEAGULLS, AGAIN
Demba Ba may have enjoyed his Saturday afternoon, but his old team-mates at Newcastle had no joy at all as they became the biggest casualties of the third round (so far), going out against Championship side Brighton for the second season running. Last term, things were going so well at Newcastle that Alan Pardew almost guided the side into the Champions League. It's all very different this season and Pardew’s priority must be to find a replacement for Ba and keep his team in the top tier.
BALOTELLI BEGINS REHAB
Manchester City eased past Watford to claim their place in the fourth round, but all eyes were on Mario Balotelli after his training-ground spat with manager Roberto Mancini last week. The Italian striker made his first appearance for almost a month as he came on as a second-half substitute and helped set up City's third goal. It appeared as though the forward has made his peace with Mancini, and he was also given some friendly advice by Watford's Italian boss Gianfranco Zola, who coached Balotelli when he played for Italy's Under 21 team. "I care about him and I do hope all his potential comes true," said Zola.