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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

City beats Reading to set up United semi

LONDON (AP) Manchester City set up an F.A. Cup semifinal against fierce rival Manchester United thanks to Micah Richards' second-half winner in a 1-0 victory over Reading on Sunday.

News photo
Sunshine in the city: Man City's David Silva breaks free as Reading's Mikele Leigertwood gives chase on Sunday in Manchester, England. AP PHOTO

The England defender met a 74th-minute corner by David Silva with a powerful header to end the stubborn resistance of the second-tier visitors and put City into the last four of the competition for the first time since 1981.

United lies in wait for Roberto Mancini's side at Wembley on the weekend of April 16-17, following the Premier League leader's 2-0 victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford on Saturday.

"It was very difficult — as the game went on, it got harder," Richards said. "Reading did well, they defended well. Fortunately the header went in."

In Sunday's other quarterfinal, Danny Higginbotham's 68th-minute free kick earned Stoke a 2-1 win over in-form Premier League rival West Ham.

Stoke — through to a first F.A. Cup semi in 39 years — will next play Bolton, a 3-2 winner over Birmingham on Saturday.

It will be the first semifinal between Manchester's two biggest clubs since 1926, when City won 3-0. The Blues went on to lose the final to Bolton.

"There is no easy way to the final — we are happy to play United, we are looking forward to it," City center back Vincent Kompany said.

City, which is bidding to end a 35-year trophy drought, lost to United in last season's League Cup semifinals but Mancini has strengthened his squad considerably since then.

One of the summer signings, Silva, was City's most dangerous player once again and set up Shaun Wright-Phillips and Yaya Toure for chances in the first half. The Spain midfielder also had a decent effort kept out by Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.

Silva was the provider for Richards' goal, the right back rising to thunder a header beyond the flailing McCarthy before City closed out the match.

Stoke's players put to the back of their minds a controversial equalizer by West Ham striker Frederic Piquionne to claim a deserved victory at the Britannia Stadium.

Robert Huth's 12th-minute opener was canceled out when Piquionne appeared to control a pass from Thomas Hitzlsperger with his arm before slotting home a finish on the half-hour mark.

"From where I was standing, it looked a stone-banker handball," Stoke manager Tony Pulis said. "We were very good for 25 minutes and then when they get their first shot on goal from that, it was disappointing."

Stoke midfielder Matthew Etherington missed a penalty against his former club but Higginbotham spared his teammate's blushes by firing in a low free kick that West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green could only palm onto the post and into the back of the net.

"I think it is being disrespectful to Bolton to say it is the draw we wanted. We just wanted to win today," Pulis added, looking ahead to the semifinal.

"We will treat them with total respect. If you look at Bolton and their history, they have been a Premier League side a lot longer than us and have established Premier League players. We will respect them and we know it will be a tough game for us."

West Ham also missed out on a Wembley appearance in this season's League Cup when the team lost to eventual winner Birmingham in the semifinals.

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