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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

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More silverware: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney lifts the trophy following United's victory over Aston Villa in the League Cup final on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. AP PHOTO

Rooney gives United another League Cup

WEMBLEY, England (AP) Wayne Rooney scored his 28th goal of the club season as Manchester United retained the League Cup with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.

Substitute Rooney sent a powerful header over goalkeeper Brad Friedel in the 74th minute to settle the first meeting of U.S.-owned clubs in an English final.

"I had a little bit of a sore knee for a couple of weeks and I felt it in the game" Rooney said. "I'm delighted to score the winning goal in a Wembley final for the first time."

James Milner had put Villa ahead from the penalty spot after five minutes, but Michael Owen quickly tied it for the English champions.

Prevailing in the 50th League Cup final provided Alex Ferguson with his 26th title since joining United in 1986.

Yet a sign of where England's second-tier knockout competition fits on Ferguson's priority list — behind the Champions League and Premier League — was evident in Owen being selected to lead the attack from the start over the in-form Rooney.

And Ferguson's plans seemed to be unraveling when Gabriel Agbonlahor latched onto Ashley Young's long ball only to be hauled down by Nemanja Vidic.

Despite not even booking the Serbian for denying a goal-scoring opportunity, referee Phil Dowd pointed to the penalty spot and Milner slotted the ball into the bottom right corner, sending Tomasz Kuszczak the wrong way.

"We started really well," Friedel said. "Perhaps it's unfortunate we weren't up a man from the start."

With Rooney on the bench, Owen had a rare platform to convince Ferguson to use him more regularly and perhaps one last chance to prompt England coach Fabio Capello to include him in his World Cup squad.

The 30-year-old scored 12 minutes into his first Wembley final. Dimitar Berbatov stole the ball off Richard Dunne, and while the Villa center back caught up with the advancing Bulgaria forward, his tackle pushed the ball toward Owen, who struck the ball beyond Brad Friedel.

It was Owen's last significant contribution to the final. As has been the story of his recent career, Owen was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 42nd minute — another sign for both Ferguson and Capello of the forward's ongoing fitness struggles.

"I didn't think of who was watching. It was a real chance for me because I haven't started too many games," Owen said. "I just want to play for Man United and if that gets me recognition, then great. I've been to many World Cups and European Championships. If I don't go, it gives someone else a chance."

Owen's departure gave Rooney an opportunity to continue his hot goal-scoring streak.

After good buildup play between Berbatov and Antonio Valencia, Rooney met Valencia's cross from close range with a header that had too much power and accuracy for Friedel to stop.

"I knew he would enter the fray at some stage," Ferguson said of Rooney. "He's a world-class player and arguably among top three players in the world. He made it more exciting."

Spurs stay fourth

LONDON (AP) Roman Pavlyuchenko and Luka Modric fired Tottenham to a 2-1 victory over Everton on Sunday to keep Spurs in fourth place in the Premier League.

Russian striker Pavlyuchenko scored the first in the 11th minute and Croatian midfielder Modric added the second in the 28th as Tottenham cruised into a comfortable lead at White Hart Lane.

But Ayegbeni Yakubu hit back for Everton in the 55th minute and substitute Landon Donovan missed an easy chance near the end which would have earned the visitor a point.

The victory gave Tottenham 49 points from 28 games and kept Harry Redknapp's team above Manchester City on goal difference.

City won 4-2 at Chelsea on Saturday to end the leader's 38-game unbeaten home run in all competitions.

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