AFC Wimbledon 1 Liverpool 2
Neal Ardley was proud of Wimbledon’s display against Liverpool but stressed they were disappointed to have not won the game.
Adebayo Akinfenwa’s goal gave Wimbledon hope of re-living their famous 1988 FA Cup final win against the same opposition but two Steven Gerrard goals secured Liverpool’s passage into the fourth round where they will face Bolton.
Wimbledon started the game slowly, going behind in the 12th minute and Ardley suggested his side gave their opponents too much respect early on.
He said: “”In the first 25 minutes we looked nervous.
“They took me too literally about our shape but when we grew in the game and in confidence we caused them problems.
“In the first half, we had all of the best chances but they have some good players on the counter-attack and in the last 20 minutes we run out of legs and they had a lot of chances.
“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.”
Liverpool started the game on the front foot and opened the scoring after 12 minutes when Gerrard headed home a Javi Manquillo cross, in his first appearance since announcing his decision to leave the club at the end of this campaign.
Wimbledon slowly began to assert their influence on the game and went close to equalising just before the half hour mark as Sean Rigg’s well-struck shot forced Simon Mignolet into a good save.
And moments later the home side should have scored. Akinfenwa’s presence was enough to distract the Liverpool back-line as James Shea’s long clearance bounced through to Matt Tubbs, who skewed a left footed volley wide from close range.
However, Wimbledon’s pressure paid off after 35 minutes as Liverpool fan Akinfenwa reacted quickest to knock in the equaliser from a couple yards out, after Mignolet struggled to deal with an in-swinging George Francomb corner.
A minute into the second half Wimbledon went close to taking advantage of Liverpool’s vulnerability at set-pieces again, as on-loan defender Adam Barrett’s header was cleared off the line by Gerrard.
The lively Rigg went close once more for the hosts before the momentum began to shift back in Liverpool’s favour, who went close through Philippe Coutinho and had a penalty shout turned down after Barry Fuller appeared to handle.
Just after the hour mark Gerrard added his second of the game to restore Liverpool’s advantage, curling in an inch-perfect free-kick beyond Shea from the edge of the area.
The second goal galvanised Liverpool, and it was only through a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping from Shea that they were unable to extend their lead.
Wimbledon struggled to create much for the remainder of the half but almost forced a replay through substitute Adebayo Azeez, whose close range effort was blocked by Mignolet in stoppage time.