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Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Comprehensive win: Chelsea's Michael Ballack controls the ball in front of Birmingham City's Lee Bowyer during Premier League action on Wednesday night. Chelsea won 3-0. AP

Man United beats Man City, makes League Cup final

LONDON (AP) Defending champion Manchester United overcame archrival Manchester City to reach the League Cup final, but was toppled from the English Premier League summit by Chelsea on Wednesday.

Wayne Rooney scored in stoppage time to prevent the Manchester derby going into extra time, clinching a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford to send United through 4-3 on aggregate.

"There was a lot of spice and at the end there was a special kind of celebration," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We stayed patient and looked a threat when we stepped it up.

"I thought Wayne Rooney produced a world-class performance tonight, he played better than he did on Saturday when he scored four goals (against Hull). Phenomenal."

United will play Aston Villa in the Feb. 28 final. Big-spending City has not contested a final since 1981.

In London, Frank Lampard scored twice as Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 victory over Birmingham to go a point ahead of United in the title race.

Arsenal was a further point adrift in third after being held to 0-0 at seventh-place Villa, which moved four points clear of crosstown rival Birmingham.

The focus of the night was on England's second-tier knockout competition, and second-half goals from Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick looked to have clinched a spot in the final for Alex Ferguson's side after overturning the 2-1 first-leg deficit.

But Carlos Tevez volleyed past former United teammate Edwin van der Sar in the 76th minute to level the semifinal at 3-3 on aggregate.

With away goals not counting until extra time, another 30 minutes was looming until Rooney headed past Shay Given in the second minute of stoppage time.

"We played very well — we were only under pressure for 10 minutes and in those 10 minutes we were very unlucky," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "But the rest of the game we played very well and I feel very sorry for the players and the fans. I only give compliments to my players, we can go on and win the F.A. Cup now."

Birmingham arrived at Stamford Bridge on a club-record 15-match unbeaten run, but there was no way back after Chelsea scored inside six minutes.

Florent Malouda was left unmarked in a prime central position to head in Joe Cole's cross from the right flank.

The pressure was unrelenting from Chelsea, with Ricardo Carvalho hitting the post and Lampard denied from 20 meters by Joe Hart before the England midfielder strengthened the home side's lead.

Ballack squared to Lampard, who controlled the ball with his left boot before striking beyond Hart from 25 meters with his right.

Lampard added a third in the 90th, firing into the bottom right after being fed by Malouda.

As Chelsea's bid for a first title since 2006 continues to gather pace, Arsenal squandered a chance to stay neck-and-neck on points.

Arsenal's best chance came just before halftime at Villa Park when captain Cesc Fabregas hit the post when Brad Friedel was beaten.

The bar also denied Arsenal in the second half when Andrei Arshavin's shot was parried by Friedel and Tomas Rosicky's shot came off the underside of the woodwork but did not cross the line.

But it was a good night for Friedel's fellow American Landon Donovan, who scored his first goal for Everton since arriving on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy as the Liverpool club beat Sunderland 2-0.

Donovan, on a 10-week loan from Major League Soccer, scored in the 19th with a left-footed shot after being fed by Tim Cahill's header. Cahill had headed Everton in front in the sixth.

Blackburn continued its rise up the standings, with a 2-1 victory over Wigan putting the team seven points clear of the relegation zone in 11th.

Cabanas stabilized

MEXICO CITY (AP) Doctors trying to save the life of soccer player Salvador Cabanas say they have been able to control swelling around the brain area as the Paraguayan tries to recover from being shot in the head at close range in a Mexico City bar.

Dr. Enrique Martinez told reporters late Wednesday that Cabanas' condition had stabilized, an improvement over his condition earlier in the day when the swelling increased after doctors tried to reduce his sedation level.

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