AFC Wimbledon made for a brave opponent, but ultimately they couldn't cope with The Magic Of Steven Gerrard (TM), and thanks to his brace of goals Liverpool were able to push through to the next round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win on the road.
It wasn't the most exciting of matches. For much of the game, Liverpool rarely looked dangerous and for long stretches of the first hour of the match they were outplayed by their League Two hosts. Likely thanks in part due to the lack of rotation, Liverpool's players looked tired and largely out of ideas while the Dons were eager and up for the occasion. Their players buzzed around all over the pitch, even the massive human being known as Adebayo Akinfenwa, exploiting gaps and holes in Liverpool's formation while the Reds labored to keep up.
Gerrard's opener game during a spell early in the first half when Liverpool controlled the match, but even then they largely struggled to break through and create quality chances. Wimbledon's back four and central midfielders were packed in so tight that Liverpool's front three had a hard time finding any space to work with, forcing Liverpool to continuously work sideways around the box. Eventually, though, Javier Manquillo was able to put in slick cross that Gerrard got his head to, and that gave the early edge to Liverpool.
It wasn't long before Wimbeldon started gaining momentum, though, launching forward with wild abandon on counter attacks and pressing like madmen when Liverpool had the ball. Simon Mignolet was forced in to one fine reaction save in a shot from Sean Rigg, and Wimbledon generated a lot of pressure from setpieces and failures by Liverpool to win the ball back properly after a chance for the Dons.
When the equalizer came, it had to be from Akinfenwa. The Wimbledon striker had been using his bulk and raw power to great effect, making Martin Skrtel look more like a rag doll than the hardened defender he normally is. He was able to pounce on a loose ball in the box after chucking Skrtel aside late in the half, capitalizing on poor decision making by Mignolet to win himself a tap-in.
The second half started as more of the same: Wimbledon running Liverpool ragged, and Liverpool looking like they were without answers. It wasn't long before Wimbledon started showing signs of flagging energy, however, and eventually the superior physicality and athleticism of Premier League players started to win out. Liverpool started winning more free kicks and corners of their own, and it was a Gerrard Classic free kick that got Liverpool their winner just after the hour mark. Perfectly stoked and curled away from the keeper to the top corner, Gerrard's strike was a thing of beauty and the kind of game-changing moment he's capable of that will make him missed when he leaves at the end of the season.
From there on, Liverpool were more or less in control of the rest of the match, though Wimbledon were able to create a few desperate moments of danger. Simon Mignolet was called on late on to make another good save, and Brendan Rodgers won't be happy with some of the late defending efforts by his side, especially from Skrtel and Emre Can. He also won't be impressed with a late counter that saw Philippe Coutinho and Lazar Markovic tear open the Wimbledon defense, only for Markovic to take too long to take his shot and end up hitting it tamely at the goalkeeper. Shockingly enough, Markovic was pulled from the match not long after.
In the end Liverpool got the win, and can officially add Bolton to their schedule later this month for the next round of the FA Cup. Perhaps Liverpool will do better against a Championship side than a League Two side? Only one way to find out.
Wimbledon: Shea; Fuller, Goodman, Barrett, Kennedy; Francomb (Sutherland 86'), Bulman, Moore (Pell 86'), Rigg (Azeez 79'); Akinfenwa, Tubbs
Goals: Akinfenwa 36'
Liverpool: Mignolet; Can, Skrtel, Sakho; Manquillo (Enrique 71'), Henderson, Lucas, Markovic (Toure 86'); Gerrard, Lambert (Balotelli 79'), Coutinho
Goals: Gerrard 12', 62'