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Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011

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Blue moon: Arsenal's Johan Djourou (left) and Manchester City's Samir Nasri compete for the ball during City's 1-0 League Cup quarterfinal win in London on Tuesday. AP

City, Liverpool oust rivals to reach League Cup semis


LONDON — Distraught by the death of a former international teammate, Craig Bellamy was too upset to play for Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday.

Two days later, however, the Wales striker was back in action and inspiring the team to a 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the League Cup quarterfinals — the first part of a northwest double over London sides in England's second-ranked club competition on Tuesday.

In the other all-Premier League matchup, Argentina striker Sergio Aguero came off the bench to score an 83rd-minute winner in Manchester City's 1-0 victory over Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. Second-tier Cardiff beat Blackburn 2-0 in the other quarterfinal.

All three matches were preceded by a minute's applause in honor of Wales manager Gary Speed, who was found by his wife hanged at his home early on Sunday morning.

Bellamy, who played alongside Speed in the national team, was particularly distressed by the news and was omitted from the Liverpool team that drew 1-1 against Manchester City hours later.

Bellamy made his return against Chelsea, holding back the tears prior to kickoff before going on to play an instrumental role in Liverpool's dismantling of the hosts, who slipped to a fifth defeat in their last nine matches in all competitions to pile the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Bellamy set up Maxi Rodriguez for the opening goal in the 58th minute and whipped in a superb free kick five minutes later that was nodded in by Martin Kelly.

"Speedo was regarded as his mentor," Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish said of Bellamy. "To come back and play like that speaks volumes."

City, which is five points clear at the top of the Premier League, transferred its form to the League Cup, edging past Arsenal thanks to Aguero's goal on the counterattack.

Having come off the bench midway through the first half, Aguero met a pass from Adam Johnson with a thumping shot past Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski as City eliminated Arsene Wenger's side in the quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons.

"It's better to win here in the Premier League," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "But it's a good feeling because we're in the semifinals of this competition."

Manchester United looks to become the third northwest power to make the semifinals when it hosts Crystal Palace in Wednesday's only match.

Chelsea was unfortunate to lose 2-1 to Liverpool in the league on Nov. 20 but was outclassed 10 days later, even though Liverpool was playing just 48 hours after a grueling match against City.

Kobe, Arsenal Ladies tie


Japanese women's league champions INAC Kobe Leonessa drew 1-1 with English counterparts Arsenal Ladies on Wednesday in a charity match to help provide support for reconstruction efforts following the massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Ji So Yun scored the opener after Kobe had missed a raft of chances in front of a crowd of just over 11,000 at National Stadium, the South Korean midfielder jinking through the Arsenal defense to steer home in the 70th minute.

But substitute Jennifer Beattie secured Arsenal a share of the spoils when she prodded in the equalizer 12 minutes from time in the Toyota Vitz Cup charity match.

Shinobu Ono, one of several Kobe players that helped Japan win the Women's World Cup in Germany in the summer, spurned a couple of decent opportunities to put Kobe in front and was nearly punished as Katy Chapman rattled the woodwork at the other end on 21 minutes.

Ono horribly off target again two minutes into the second half and Nahomi Kawasumi, recently named the Nadeshiko league's player of the year, then chipped just over before Ji stole in to score the opener.

Arsenal strike duo Ellen White and Rachel Yankey were both on target when England beat Japan 2-0 to hand Norio Sasaki's team their only defeat in a group stage match at the World Cup.

Neither posed much of threat against a well-organized Kobe defense but Beattie finally found space to beat Ayumi Kaihori at her near post for the equalizer.

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