| Tuesday, December 17, 2002 17:57 EST
Cole leads Blackburn past upset-minded Wigan
LONDON -- Diego Forlan struck again as
Manchester United reached the semifinals of the English League
Cup for the first time since 1994 with a 1-0 victory over
premier league rivals Chelsea on Tuesday.
Holders Blackburn Rovers also won their quarterfinal,
beating second division Wigan Athletic 2-0, while first division
Sheffield United claimed a place in the last four for the first
time in its history with a 3-1 home win over Crystal Palace.
The remaining quarterfinal, between Aston Villa and
Liverpool, takes place at Villa Park on Wednesday.
At Old Trafford, the growing importance of the competition
for United was reflected in Alex Ferguson's strong team
selection, with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
omitted to protect minor injuries.
Ferguson was rewarded with his side's eighth victory in as
many games in all competitions, while Chelsea coach Claudio
Ranieri has to pick his players up after its first defeat in
Forlan, the forward once derided for his poor goals return,
had to wait until the 80th minute for his latest moment of
Chelsea's Italian striker Gianfranco Zola was caught in
possession, allowing David Beckham to play Forlan in.
The 7.5 million-pound buy from Independiente advanced on
Carlo Cudicini and steered his shot through the Chelsea keeper's
legs for his seventh goal of the season.
He nearly made it eight moments later, dragging a shot from
another Beckham pass on to the post.
Substitute Boudewijn Zenden went close to equalizing for the
1998 winners late on with a 25-meter effort that Fabien Barthez
parried to safety.
In the first half, Paul Scholes twice went close for United
-- beaten in the 1994 final by Aston Villa -- and Ryan Giggs had
an effort cleared off the line by Mario Melchiot.
Quique de Lucas wasted Chelsea's best chance of the first
period, driving wide from close range.
At the JJB stadium, home of second division Wigan, former
United striker Andy Cole propelled Blackburn to within touching
distance of its second final in succession.
Cole, who scored the winner in Blackburn's 2-1 win over
Tottenham Hotspur in last year's final in Cardiff, pounced from
close range after 16 minutes following good work from Turkish
Cole added his second 10 minutes from time, and although
Blackburn keeper Brad Friedel made saves from Wigan's Neil
Roberts and Gary Teale, Blackburn was in control.
Blackburn boss Graeme Souness was sent to the stands during
the match for arguing with the fourth official.
Two goals in two minutes late on from Paul Peschisolido
secured victory for Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Peschisolido, the Canadian striker, scored on 86 and 88
minutes after an 82nd-minute Robert Page own goal had cancelled
out United's first-half opener from Carl Asaba.