|Sunderland midfielder Ki Sung-yueng controls the ball on Wednesday. (AFP-Yonhap News)|
MANCHESTER, England (AP) ― Manchester United’s wretched campaign reached a new low on Wednesday after a penalty shootout defeat to Sunderland in a dramatic League Cup semifinal left the beleaguered English champions staring at a season without silverware.
Sunderland will play Manchester City in the March 2 final at Wembley Stadium after goalkeeper Vito Mannone saved Rafael da Silva’s decisive spot kick to seal a 2-1 victory in the shootout, after the semifinal finished 3-3 on aggregate after 120 minutes.
With barely a minute left of extra time, United was on the brink of going through on away goals after Jonny Evans scored a 37th-minute header to make it 2-2 on aggregate. But the match swayed Sunderland’s way when United goalkeeper David de Gea fumbled in a shot from Phil Bardsley.
Javier Hernandez forced penalties, though, by scoring in the first minute of injury time.
“We did not play well enough on the night,” said United manager David Moyes, who has just the Champions League title to go for in a tumultuous first season at Old Trafford.
“If we were going to (go through), we were going to stumble over the line and get through. It wasn’t because we played well enough.”
In a nervy shootout full of poorly taken penalties, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones blazed shots over the bar for United and Adnan Januzaj had an effort saved by Mannone, who then dived to his right to parry away Rafael’s attempt and earn Sunderland a first appearance in a major final in 22 years.
Adam Johnson had earlier missed a chance to put Sunderland through when his penalty ― the team’s fifth ― was saved.Messi sets up 4 in Barca’s win
BARCELONA (AP) ― Lionel Messi marked his 400th game for Barcelona with a master class of passing by setting up four goals to give Cristian Tello a hat trick in a 4-1 win at Levante in Wednesday’s first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal.
Denied by the hosts in the first half, Messi withdrew into midfield to turn playmaker and place four precise passes behind the defense that led to an own goal in the 53rd minute and Tello’s treble in the 60th, 81st and 86th.
Levante had held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at Ciutat de Valencia Stadium just four days earlier in the Spanish league, and it was on course toward a similar feat after Nabil El Zhar netted in the 31st.
But Messi again showed that he is much more than Barcelona’s all-time scorer with 331 goals since his debut in 2004 by exploiting Tello’s speed down the left flank with well-timed assists.
“It’s spectacular to have a player like Messi on your side,” said Tello. “All four goals came from his boots.”
Elsewhere, Real Sociedad defender Mikel Gonzalez scored twice to help earn a 3-1 victory at home over third-division Racing Santander in their opening leg.
Levante found Barcelona’s weak spot in defending set pieces when Carles Puyol’s clearance of a free kick fell for El Zhar to score at the second attempt after goalkeeper Jose Pinto had blocked his powerful first shot.
Barcelona was more inspired after the break and Messi’s first pass to Tello led to the equalizer.