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Monday, Jan. 4, 2010

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Saving the day: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard controls the ball against Reading during the third round of the F.A. Cup at Madejski Stadium on Saturday. Gerrard scored the equalizer in the 36th minute to help the Reds salvage a 1-1 draw. AP PHOTO

Gerrard saves Reds from F.A. Cup upset

LONDON (AP) Liverpool needed an equalizer from Steven Gerrard to draw 1-1 with second-tier club Reading on Saturday and keep its F.A. Cup hopes alive.

Simon Church threatened an upset by giving Reading a 24th-minute lead from close range after Grzegorz Rasiak had skillfully pulled the ball back from wide of the far post.

But Gerrard leveled with a long-range shot in the 36th when teammate Dirk Kuyt let the ball go past him in front of goal and saw it fly inside the far post. The result means that the two teams will meet again at Anfield in a replay.

Portsmouth was also held 1-1 by a League Championship club, at home to Coventry. Birmingham could only draw 0-0 at Nottingham Forest, while Aston Villa and Wigan outplayed Premier League rivals to reach the fourth round.

There were also comfortable victories for top-flight clubs Tottenham, Bolton, Everton, Sunderland, Stoke and Burnley against opponents from the lower divisions.

Last in the top flight and struggling with financial problems, Portsmouth fell behind to David Bell's strike at Fratton Park but earned a replay through Kevin-Prince Boateng's header in the final minute of the first half.

"We missed some opportunities, the two goalkeepers did great, but we're still in the cup," said Portsmouth manager Avram Grant, whose players are still waiting to be paid their wages from last week.

"It's not easy (to motivate the players) but they have two choices — to give up or not. I never did it in my life. When they came to the pitch they gave everything."

Asked if the players would be paid this week, Grant replied: "I hope so."

In one of the meetings between Premier League clubs, Villa beat Blackburn 3-1 with goals by Nathan Delfouneso, Carlos Cuellar and John Carew's late penalty.

Charles N'Zogbia came off the bench at halftime to score twice in Wigan's 4-1 victory over Hull, which had taken the lead through a free kick by Geovanni.

In a meeting of two teams on long unbeaten runs, Birmingham was held 0-0 at Nottingham Forest, which is third in the second tier League Championship.

Manchester City won 1-0 at Championship club Middlesbrough with a first-half goal by Benjani Mwaruwari, and Bobby Zamora's 16th minute strike gave Fulham a 1-0 victory over Swindon from the third-tier League One.

Niko Krancjar scored twice as Spurs beat Peterborough 4-0, Bolton trounced Lincoln 4-0, Everton knocked out Carlisle 3-1 and Sunderland beat non-league Barrow 3-0. Stoke came from behind to beat non-league York 3-1.

Burnley won 2-1 at Milton Keynes Dons after a penalty by Graham Alexander and a second from Steven Fletcher.

Barca held at home

MADRID (AP) Spanish League leader Barcelona allowed itself to be caught by Real Madrid in the standings after being held to 1-1 by Villarreal on Saturday.

Barcelona leads with 40 points, three more than Real Madrid, which meets Osasuna on Sunday.

Valencia, a 1-0 winner against Espanyol, has 32 points and Sevilla is two more behind after losing to Atletico Madrid 2-1 as the league resumed after the winter break.

After Thierry Henry's first-time volley struck the crossbar, Pedro Rodriguez knocked in the rebound in the seventh minute for Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

But David Fuster judged his run perfectly to tap in Ruben "Cani" Garcia's looping cross at the far post for the equalizer in the 51st minute.

"We knew this was the worst team for us to play at the start of the year, we all know Barcelona has won everything . . . and we're very happy with the draw," Fuster said. "I think our goal in the second half did them a lot of damage."



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