Match ends, AFC Wimbledon 1, Liverpool 2.
AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Liverpool
- Gerrard scores twice as Liverpool avoid upset
- Captain's first game since announcing summer exit
- Mignolet at fault for AFC Wimbledon equaliser
- Liverpool to play Bolton in fourth round
Steven Gerrard demonstrated the quality and leadership Liverpool will miss when he leaves Anfield as he inspired them to an FA Cup third-round victory at AFC Wimbledon.
Gerrard, playing his first game since announcing he would depart in the summer to play in the United States, illustrated the hole he will leave behind.
Liverpool's captain, who will celebrate his 35th birthday on FA Cup final day on 30 May, headed them in front, then came to their aid, as he has done so often, when they slumped into trouble.
Adebayo Akinfenwa's equaliser revived memories of the original Wimbledon's FA Cup final win against Liverpool at Wembley in 1988 - until Gerrard stepped in to restore order with a superb trademark free-kick just after the hour.
It helped to steady Liverpool, whose defence had looked horribly vulnerable under pressure from Neal Ardley's side, who are 12th in League Two.
Irrespective of the outcome, this FA Cup night was a credit to the rebirth of AFC Wimbledon, who started life in the Combined Counties League in 2002 and went through five promotions before returning to the Football League in 2011.
But AFC Wimbledon - like so many teams before them since Gerrard made his Liverpool debut in 1998 - discovered that this is the player who can be relied upon to help the Reds through moments of adversity.
This was another example as he took his Liverpool tally to 182 goals in 696 appearances for the club.
Gerrard took the applause of the visiting fans, waiting to acclaim him following news of his impending departure, before the game and was able to calm their early nerves with a goal after Sean Rigg had almost given AFC Wimbledon a shock lead with a shot across the face of goal.
Gerrard timed his arrival in the area perfectly in the 12th minute to meet Javier Manquillo's cross and direct a low header beyond keeper James Shea into the bottom corner.
Liverpool then enjoyed a period of relative control but, as has happened so often this season, they were undone by the vulnerability of their defence and the uncertainty of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
The Belgian did well to turn over from 10 yards as Rigg threatened again, but the weakness in Liverpool's rearguard was exposed when a long kick from Shea found its way through to the feet of Matt Tubbs, who pulled a poor finish across the face of goal.
AFC Wimbledon's confidence and threat was growing and it resulted in an equaliser nine minutes before the break.
Mignolet missed George Francomb's corner, Mamadou Sakho bundled the ball onto his own bar and Akinfenwa was the first to react to poke in from six yards.
Gerrard came to Liverpool's rescue in the opening moments of the second half when he cleared off the line from Adam Barrett as AFC Wimbledon picked up where they had left off.
And when Liverpool needed inspiration at the other end, Gerrard provided it with a free-kick curled beyond the reach of the despairing Shea.
Gerrard was denied a hat-trick by a stoppage-time goalline clearance from Callum Kennedy as Liverpool secured a home tie against Bolton Wanderers in the fourth round.
AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley: "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 ran 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 and not being good losers."
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers told BBC Sport: "It was a very tough game. Congratulations to AFC Wimbledon - they made it very difficult.
"We started well, controlling the game, but then we lost our shap and we presented them chances by giving the ball away.
"We adapted at half-time but we still had to defend all the way through to the end.
"The physicality always puts you under pressure - they have good delivery. The ball came into the box consistently and of course that can be a threat. You'll never be overly comfortable in those situations.
"I've got to give a lot of testament to my players - they showed a lot of character. In the second half, we should have had two or three more goals.
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- 2FullerBooked at 61mins
- 33GoodmanBooked at 70mins
- 7FrancombSubstituted forSutherlandat 86'minutes
- 8MooreSubstituted forPellat 86'minutes
- 11RiggSubstituted forAzeezat 79'minutes
- 10AkinfenwaBooked at 39mins
- 19ManquilloSubstituted forEnrique Sanchez Diazat 71'minutes
- 50MarkovicSubstituted forK Touréat 86'minutes
- 9LambertSubstituted forBalotelliat 79'minutes
- 10CoutinhoBooked at 76mins
- 3Enrique Sanchez Diaz
- 4K Touré
- Jonathan Moss
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, AFC Wimbledon 1, Liverpool 2.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Jake Goodman.
Attempt blocked. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box is blocked. Assisted by Mario Balotelli.
Attempt saved. Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) right footed shot from very close range is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Emre Can.
Corner, AFC Wimbledon. Conceded by Simon Mignolet.
Attempt saved. Adebayo Azeez (AFC Wimbledon) right footed shot from very close range is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Matt Tubbs with a through ball.
Foul by Mario Balotelli (Liverpool).
Jake Goodman (AFC Wimbledon) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Emre Can (Liverpool) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Jordan Henderson.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Callum Kennedy.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Barry Fuller.
Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Adebayo Akinfenwa (AFC Wimbledon).
Substitution, Liverpool. Kolo Touré replaces Lazar Markovic.
Substitution, AFC Wimbledon. Harry Pell replaces Sammy Moore.
Substitution, AFC Wimbledon. Frankie Sutherland replaces George Francomb.
Attempt saved. Lazar Markovic (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.
Corner, AFC Wimbledon. Conceded by Martin Skrtel.
Attempt blocked. Adebayo Azeez (AFC Wimbledon) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
Sammy Moore (AFC Wimbledon) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Mario Balotelli (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Philippe Coutinho.
Attempt saved. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by José Enrique.
Attempt saved. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Steven Gerrard.
Lucas Leiva (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Adebayo Akinfenwa (AFC Wimbledon).
Substitution, AFC Wimbledon. Adebayo Azeez replaces Sean Rigg.
Substitution, Liverpool. Mario Balotelli replaces Rickie Lambert.
Foul by Emre Can (Liverpool).
Matt Tubbs (AFC Wimbledon) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordan Henderson with a cross.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Adam Barrett.
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool).
Matt Tubbs (AFC Wimbledon) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt saved. José Enrique (Liverpool) with an attempt from the left side of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Rickie Lambert with a cross.
Offside, Liverpool. Philippe Coutinho tries a through ball, but Rickie Lambert is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.
Substitution, Liverpool. José Enrique replaces Javier Manquillo.