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gerrard to the rescue for reds

Steven Gerrard's long goodbye began by saving Liverpool's blushes as AFC Wimbledon threatened an upset akin to the 1988 FA Cup final.

This third-round tie was the first match since the 34-year-old announced he will be leaving Anfield at the end of the season, with a move to Major League Soccer in the United States beckoning.

Winning a third FA Cup on what will be his 35th birthday would certainly be a fitting end to Gerrard's time with the Reds, who he helped secure a 2-1 win against Wimbledon with goals either side of an Adebayo Akinfenwa strike.

The giant striker's leveller for League Two side allowed fans to dream of an upset similar to their famous defeat of the Merseyside behemoths in 1988, when Lawrie Sanchez's header brought home the cup. However, it was a tie which looked to only be going one way as Gerrard put the visitors ahead with a lovely header after 12 minutes.


Rather than take the sting out of the tie, though, it sprung the hosts into life, with Wimbledon netting a deserved leveller through Akinfenwa.

The presence of the 16-stone striker, affectionately nicknamed 'The Beast', saw much-maligned Simon Mignolet flap at a corner and, when the ball came off the bar, he prodded home from close range.

It was no less than the Dons deserved and Gerrard was forced to clear off the line when Adam Barrett powered a header goalwards moments after the restart.

However, Gerrard, like so many times before, dragged Liverpool up by the coat-tails and brilliantly curled home a 22-yard free-kick - what proved the decisive goal in an enthralling third-round tie.

A home tie with Bolton awaits in the fourth round for Liverpool after a difficult night at Kingsmeadow, where Javier Manquillo was left rolling around in pain inside the opening minute.

On a sour note for Liverpool, though, the Anfield club will be without Adam Lallana for the next month due to a thigh injury, according to reports.

The 26-year-old is beginning to produce the kind of performances which led the Reds to pay Southampton a reported £25million for his services in the summer.

Lallana scored a brace as Swansea were seen off 4-1 last Monday and started a sixth successive match in all competitions in the New Year's Day encounter with Leicester at Anfield.

However, the attacking midfielder was forced off after 55 minutes with what manager Brendan Rodgers called "a tweak in his thigh" - a complaint it is understood will rule the England international out for four weeks.

The injury saw Lallana miss out on last night's FA Cup third-round clash at AFC Wimbledon and he will also miss both legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final against Chelsea, as well as several Premier League matches.