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What we learned in Liverpool's 2-1 victory over AFC Wimbledon

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Liverpool scraped through to the FA Cup fourth round with a 2-1 victory over League Two side AFC Wimbledon on Monday night at Kingsmeadow.

In a game that most expected the seven-time winners of the competition to cruise to victory, the London club put in a good show and dominated the match for large periods.

Reds captain Steven Gerrard gave his side the lead just days after he announced he would not be renewing his contract with his club of 26 years at the end of the season.

However, the Dons did not let their heads drop and on the 36 minute mark were level when Adebayo Akenfenwa reacted first to a lose ball inside the box.

Both side's had their chances but it was the Premier League outfit who took the lead when Gerrard fired a 30 year free-kick into the top corner to set up a clash with Bolton Wanderers in the next stage of the competition.

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In an action packed game, there were several things learned from Liverpool's performance.

Final Strike For Simon Mignolet

There's no denying that Simon Mignolet has been dreadful for the Reds this season. Brendan Rodgers does not trust him, the Liverpool defence does not trust him and neither do the fans.

You know that the Belgian is not wanted on the pitch when fans were guttered he had to come on to replace Brad Jones in goal during the 1-0 victory against Burnley on Boxing Day.

Jones has very much been a replacement goalkeeper during his time at Anfield and has been awful himself when playing in either early round cup games or when Pepe Reina was injured.

With the former-Middlesbrough man out injured, Mignolet has been forced to make a comeback in between the sticks after a stint out of the team. His main issue has been coming off his line collecting the ball. Most of the time, he prefers to sticks on his line and when he has came, there's been many-a time when the ex-Sunderland man has missed the ball.

The game against Wimbledon was no different. In the 36th minute,  George Francomb crossed a threatening corner, but there was no reason why Mignolet could not come and collect the ball either with a solid punch or catching it. He completely missed the aerial cross and Akenfenwa was first to react to the lose ball and put his side level.

From thereon in, Mignolet did not leave his line for a cross, apart from one late on, which was held well in fairness. Not only is the 26-year-old low on confidence but his performances are taking its toll on the defence - they expect their goalkeeper to come and collect balls that should be his all day long and when Martin Skrtel and co. realise their 'keeper is rooted to the ground, they have to make late decisions which will be caught out eventually.

Now in January, it seems likely that Rodgers will bring in a new shot-stopper. Mignolet clearly is not cutting the mustard at Anfield and neither is Brad Jones.

Steven Gerard Played In A Role He Should Be

How many times have we said that Gerrard has dragged Liverpool out of trouble? Far too many to be precise and Monday's game was no different. No disrespect to Wimbledon, but the Reds should have been crushing them with ease. A team worth millions upon million of pounds struggled to beat a team that make less than what the Liverpool players make in a week, in a year.

It didn't come as a shock when Gerrard announced he was going to be leaving the five-time European Cup winners a few days ago. The signs have been there this season and the coffin was likely nailed when left out of Liverpool's 1-0 loss to Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 34-year-old retired from England duty - as the Three Lions captain - to prolong his career at his boyhood club but is leaving after just one season of doing so. It's only fact that Gerrard cannot play every game anymore - he's in his twilight years of his career and to still be playing at the level he does is something.

Rodgers has played the Huyton-native just in-front of the defence for the most part this campaign and clearly it hasn't worked. Games have passed him buy when he's not been able to put tackles in when the opposition is on the attack and playing so deep limits his passing.

Gerrard however played further forward in London and it was a role that suits. For his first goal, the advanced role allowed him to spread the ball out wide, sprint into the box and get his head on Javier Manquillo's cross.

It was a vintage goal from the Liverpool legend and something that has been missed of late. The goal reminded me of Frank Lampard - still playing two years superior of his former England team-mate. Yes, the ex-Chelsea man comes off the bench most games, but the impact he makes is phenomenal as he still oozes class, just in smaller stints.

Once the Champions League winner leaves Merseyside for the MLS, the Reds are going to struggle for someone to take set-pieces. With both he and Luis Suarez left, you wonder who will take Liverpool free-kick and penalties.

Gerrard's free-kick in the 62nd minute again showed Rodgers what he would be missing next season, an unstoppable strike that would have had the best goalkeepers in the world beaten.

The role is blueprinted from Gerrard and it's a shame that he is not staying.

Sympathy For Rickie Lambert

Rickie Lambert probably thought it was going to be like a Disney film for him when he joined Liverpool this summer.

After being released from the club at 15, the Kirkby-native played in every tier of English football and secured his dream move back to Anfield in June for £4 million. Unfortunately it has not been the fairy-tale he expected.

The 32-year-old has had little game time on Merseyside and when he has, there has been little to brag about. Lambert has netted just two goals - just one in the top flight - and has not become accustomed to playing the fast, counter-attacking football encouraged by Rodgers.

Deep down, he probably knew he was joining Liverpool as a 'Plan B' someone who could come on and make an impact if things weren't going right.

When he has been given a start, it has been generally disappointing. He touched the ball just four times inside the Dons' box, one of those was a tame shot easily saved by James Shea when Gerrard slotted him in.

Lazar Markovic Is Trying Hard

Another game and the young Serb didn't fair to be badly. Conditions were very much against Lazar Markovic - the pitch at Kingsmeadow was poor with players slipping every other minute.

For a winger who wants to find full stride, it proved difficult for the former-Benfica man to do so as he was fearful that he would too land on his backside.

Wimbledon recognised both he and Philippe Coutinho as the threat when going forward and closely marked the pair, doubling up if need be.

Markovic still is coming of age at just 20 and adapting to English football. Sometimes going away in the cup to a lower-league team who make it a physical can be much more imposing than playing a Premier League club.

He got into physical battles and did come out on the receiving end on a few occasions, but the youngster kept on persevering and had was rewarded. His speed and quick ball skills was a test for the Wimbledon defence and showed signs he's coming on as a player.

Markovic's long-term role is not playing as a wing-back. He will be hopeful to continue to impress and snatch a position playing as one of the three forward men where he can make more of an impact on the opposition's goal.

For now, however, he will be happy he's getting regular football and will look to continue to improve.

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Topics:
Liverpool
FA Cup
Premier League
Football
Steven Gerrard

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