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Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009

United, Villa move into League Cup semis

LONDON (AP) Defending champion Manchester United advanced to the League Cup semifinals Tuesday by beating Tottenham 2-0, while Aston Villa won 4-2 over Portsmouth.

News photo
Spur of the moment: Manchester United's Anderson fights for the ball with Tottenham's Jermaine Jenas on Tuesday. AP PHOTO

Man United midfielder Darron Gibson struck twice in the first half in a rematch of last season's final that was won by United in a penalty shootout.

"It was a good team performance following last week. We bounced back and the young lads did well," Gibson said. "We didn't go out to try and prove anything. Sometimes you have bad days and today was a good day."

Anderson was the creator of the 17th-minute opening goal, surging forward before cutting inside to lay the ball into the path of Gibson, whose low shot crept into the corner of the net.

The second came at the end of a flowing move started by Park Ji Sung and continued by Dimitar Berbatov, who picked out Danny Welbeck and played a one-two with Gibson. The midfielder struck high into the net from the edge of the area.

"The movement and working off the ball was good — and a terrific finish," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "Gibson and Anderson did very well in the middle of the park. We're two games away from Wembley, that's good. We'll enjoy the semifinal and these lads will play again."

At Fratton Park, Portsmouth took the lead in the 10th when Villa's Stiliyan Petrov sliced a corner into his own net, but the visitors replied immediately through Emile Heskey.

England winger James Milner struck in the 27th and Stewart Downing added a third goal on his first Villa start in the 74th.

Kanu gave Villa a late scare by pulling one back, but Ashley Young made sure of victory with a fourth goal to send Martin O'Neill's side through.

"As the Champions League seems to have grown in stature, the League Cup has lost a bit of its luster," O'Neill said. "But, if you'd seen the lineup for the quarterfinals, it was very strong indeed. The competition seems to have galvanized itself again, with Chelsea and United wanting to win it."

France not seeded

CAPE TOWN (AP) France will not be a seeded team at Friday's World Cup draw, setting up potential clashes with powerful teams like Brazil or Spain in the group stage.

Host South Africa will be seeded in Group A, allowing it to open the World Cup at Soccer City on June 11. The other seeded teams — based on the October FIFA rankings — are Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina and England.

France won the World Cup in 1998 and was runnerup in 2006 but struggled to qualify for the 2010 event, prevailing only in a contentious playoff against Ireland highlighted by a handball from Thierry Henry which led to the decisive goal.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said France was a victim of its lackluster qualifying campaign since the seedings were based on the October rankings. Previously, past results in World Cups also had an impact.

In France, former national team coach Michel Hidalgo immediately raised questions.

"I am asking myself if this is not a sanction for the handball of Henry," he told RTL radio. "It is an injustice. It looks like France is being sanctioned."

Valcke denied such speculation.

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