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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

City ready to block United’s treble dream

Posted: 13 Apr 2011 07:11 PM PDT

Wayne Rooney celebrating after scoring against Chelsea on April 6, 2011, that could put Manchester United on their way to a treble, but he will be sitting out the Manchester City game, suspended after a swearing incident. — Reuters pic

LONDON, April 14 — Manchester City would ease some of the hurt inflicted on them over the past four decades by Manchester United if they were to win their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday and end United's treble hopes.

Whoever does come through will start as favourites to win the FA Cup itself on May 14 when they will face the winners of Sunday's other semi-final between Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City.

For different reasons, both matches have excited the imagination of fans beyond just the teams involved — Saturday's because of the intense rivalry and significance of the tie to both Manchester clubs, and Sunday's because Bolton and Stoke rarely come so close to glory.

United have won their past seven matches in all competitions and are on a high after beating Chelsea 2-1 on Tuesday for a 3-1 aggregate success to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

United are also seven points clear of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League and there is a possibility they could repeat their Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup treble of 1999 as they have hit form at just the right time.

Although they will be without the suspended Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, 37, has been outstanding in their recent run of victories.

"Our confidence is really high and players are coming back from injury and that's what you want at this stage of the season as there are games every three days," said Giggs.

"The manager will chop and change the team . . . but we've got 20 players probably competing for 11 places."

Unfortunately for United, Rooney, who has returned to form with 10 goals since February 1, is unavailable following his swearing incident at West Ham United two weeks ago.

City may also have to make do without the services of former United striker Carlos Tevez, who picked up a hamstring injury on Monday.

His absence could dent their chances of reaching the final for the first time since 1981. Thirty years ago they lost 3-2 to Tottenham Hotspur in a replay while their last FA Cup success was in 1969 when they beat Leicester City.

Although owner Sheikh Mansour has invested hundreds of millions into the club, City have yet to end their 35-year wait for a major trophy and will have to show a dramatic improvement on their abject display in Monday's 3-0 loss at Liverpool to prevent United rubbing their noses in the dirt again.

Even longer

While City's wait for major honours has lasted since 1976 when they won the League Cup, Bolton and Stoke have gone even longer without collecting a major piece of silverware.

Stoke, who have been playing in the FA Cup since 1883, have never reached the final. They last reached the semis in 1972 when they lost to Arsenal. That was also the year they won their only major trophy beating Chelsea in the League Cup final.

Bolton have won the FA Cup four times, the last of those triumphs coming in 1958 when Nat Lofthouse, their greatest ever player who died earlier this year, scored both goals when they beat Manchester United 2-0 at Wembley.

Both sides, sitting comfortably in mid-table, have beaten each other in the Premier League this season, and Bolton manager Owen Coyle says the idea of winning the Cup as a tribute to Lofthouse, has taken hold in the town.

"It would be nice if that comes to fruition but I think there's a lot of tough obstacles in the way for that to happen," he told Reuters.

"We're more than up for the challenge and we will do everything we can to reach the final against a very good Stoke side."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis told reporters: "It's a great achievement that we have got this far but we are not getting carried away with the idea we have had any sort of success. We have done well in the League and reaching the Cup final would show we are definitely moving in the right direction." — Reuters

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Real Madrid make it White Hart pain for Spurs

Posted: 13 Apr 2011 04:56 PM PDT

Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. — Reuters pic

LONDON, April 14 — Jose Mourinho stayed on course to become the first coach to win the Champions League with three different clubs when Real Madrid beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 yesterday to seal a 5-0 aggregate rout in the quarter-finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one of the softest goals of his career as Mourinho's team set up a titanic semi-final confrontation with arch-rivals Barcelona on April 27 and May 3.

Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes allowed a long-range Ronaldo shot to bounce out of his hands in the 50th minute and failed to retrieve the ball as it bounced agonisingly over the line at White Hart Lane.

Real will now meet Barcelona four times in an epic 17-day spell, starting with Saturday's top of the table La Liga clash and next week's King's Cup final.

"The semi-final is a semi-final, anything can happen," said Mourinho who lifted the Champions League trophy with Inter Milan last season and with Porto in 2004.

"We have two matches against Barcelona before the semis and there is no time to think. If Spurs had scored in the first half . . . it could have been difficult but when Cristiano scored it was all over," the Portuguese told ITV Sport.

Real, 4-0 up from last week's first leg, were never in danger of suffering what would have been the biggest reversal since European club competition began in 1955 as they recorded their first away win in the knockout stages for nine years.

The closest Champions League debutants Spurs came to scoring was when Gareth Bale had a first-half goal ruled out because Luka Modric was offside.

Spurs, at the start, set about their virtually impossible task with Bale and Aaron Lennon outpacing Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos at will on the flanks before whipping in balls that put Real under pressure.

One run by Bale, when he blazed past Ramos, brought an astonished look to the face of Mourinho, but it was Lennon who created a good chance after 27 minutes.

Penalty appeals

Lennon left Arbeloa in his wake again only for Roman Pavlyuchenko to blast the ball into the upper tier of the stands.

Spurs also had three penalty appeals turned down as they continued to go forward, Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli waving away claims after Bale, Modric and Pavlyuchenko all went down under challenges.

Real, naturally enough, were content to sit back and only gave the home defence one moment of real concern in the first half when Ramos forced Gomes to make a fine save from a header and Emmanuel Adebayor lashed the follow-up wide.

The second half lacked the intensity of the first after Ronaldo's goal as Real cruised into the last four, maintaining their challenge for a 10th European Cup title ahead of the final at Wembley Stadium on May 28.

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was in philosophical mood after his team's defeat.

"The goal was disappointing but the goalkeeper has been great for us and he has made saves in the past that he had no right to make," said Redknapp.

"He made a rare mistake but that's how it goes." — Reuters

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