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Monday, Jan. 30, 2012

Liverpool eliminates United


LONDON — Liverpool reached the fifth round of the F.A. Cup on Saturday at the expense of its fiercest rival, a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Manchester United leaving the famous competition without the Premier League's top two teams.

While Chelsea progressed with a 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers thanks to Juan Mata's second-half penalty, Netherlands forward Dirk Kuyt was the matchwinner for Liverpool in the 88th minute at Anfield.

With United having dumped out neighbor Manchester City — the Premier League leaders and defending F.A. Cup champions — in the fourth round, the world's oldest club knockout competition looks wide open this year.

Second-tier Brighton beat Premier League Newcastle 1-0 at the Amex Stadium in another cup match that Magpies defender Mike Williamson will want to forget.

Williamson deflected in Will Buckley's close-range effort for the only goal 14 minutes from time. The defender also scored an own goal last season when Newcastle lost to then League Two side Stevenage in the third round of the competition.

Bolton beat Swansea 2-1 and Norwich won by the same scoreline at West Bromwich Albion in the other all-Premier League matchups, while Stoke — which lost the 2011 final to Man City — also progressed with a 2-0 win at Derby.

Tottenham and Everton went through on Friday, while Arsenal was set to host Aston Villa on Sunday.

On a day without any major shocks, fourth-tier team Crawley provided the biggest upset by beating Hull, which is fifth in the second tier, 1-0. There are 45 places between the teams in English soccer's pyramid.

Liverpool-United was undoubtedly the biggest game of the day and the rivals' first meeting since the unsavory race row between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra erupted in a Premier League match between the teams in October.

Evra, United's captain on Saturday, was booed throughout while Suarez was unavailable as he served the seventh of his eight-game ban for repeatedly racially abusing the France defender.

The match passed without trouble, however, with United manager Alex Ferguson saying: "The players showed great respect to each other — there wasn't a bad tackle in the game."

Denmark center back Daniel Agger's opener for Liverpool in the 21st minute was canceled out by United's Park Ji Sung six minutes before the break in a first half edged by the visitors, despite being without a raft of key players including the injured Wayne Rooney.

Kuyt settled the match when he ran to a flick-on by Andy Carroll and beat United goalkeeper David de Gea at his near post.

It was a perfect end to a week that saw Liverpool also reach the final of the League Cup, against Cardiff on Feb. 27, by completing a two-leg victory over City on Wednesday.

"It's a fantastic credit to the players and how much pride they take in the club that they've got themselves back on track," said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, who criticized his team for a sloppy 3-1 league defeat to Bolton last weekend. "They've come out on the right side of two huge cup games."

Ghana finds form


FRANCEVILLE GABON — Ghana found traces of its best form at the African Cup of Nations as impressive goals by Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew led it to a 2-0 win over Mali on Saturday and to the brink of the quarterfinals.

Ghana was held for an hour by a defensive Mali before breaking through in a battle of Group D favorites at Stade de Franceville.

Ghana's victory sealed Botswana's elimination, while the Black Stars, Mali and Guinea will all battle for two quarterfinal places in the final round of matches.

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