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Man United beats Spurs in League Cup in shootout

MANCHESTER United won the League Cup with a 4-1 penalty shootout victory over Tottenham yesterday that kept the English league leaders on course for an unprecedented five trophies this season.

After a 0-0 draw through extra time that both teams had chances to win, United goalkeeper Ben Foster saved Tottenham's first shootout kick from Jamie O'Hara and David Bentley missed the third before Anderson hit the winner.

The victory gave United its second trophy of the season following December's Club World Cup title. The Red Devils also lead the Premier League by seven points, are in contention for the Champions League and play Fulham in the FA Cup quarterfinals next weekend.

"We're not going to get carried away with it," United manager Alex Ferguson said. "We'll keep our feet on the ground. A deflected shot goes off someone's backside at Fulham on Wednesday and you're out of the cup. Today proved that.

"Without Ben Foster, we'd have lost that."

United showed the resources it will have to draw upon if it is to triumph in its other competitions this season, introducing substitutes Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Anderson to bolster its lineup against a Tottenham side playing with confidence.

"They've got a big chance," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "The league looks like it's going their way and you wouldn't bet against them."

Foster made two crucial saves during the match to deny Aaron Lennon and Darren Bent and prevent defending champion Tottenham from retaining the trophy. But United could have also won the match in regular time when Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored in the shootout alongside Giggs and Carlos Tevez, hit the post in injury time.

United's defense had appeared uncharacteristically shaky against a team 13 positions lower in the Premier League as Lennon continually ran at and past left back Patrice Evra, sending in cross after cross.

"He gave Evra, who with Ashley Cole is the best left back in the Premier League, a torrid time," Redknapp said.

Redknapp put substitute O'Hara on the left to help collect those crosses in the 65th minute, but that was toward the end of his team's most threatening spell. Foster saved Lennon's fierce shot in the 71st and then did the same to Bent in extra time.

"Tottenham are good opponents and they probably had better chances in the match," Ferguson said. "But Ben Foster made two or three good saves."

The difference between the teams seemed to be the strength in depth. While O'Hara and Bentley both missed penalties after coming on as substitutes, Giggs scored for United.

"We played the best team in Europe today and it wasn't their kids," Redknapp said. "Vidic comes on and Giggs comes on and you look at their team and it's very strong. They wanted to win as much as we did."

United made six changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Inter Milan on Tuesday but started each half strongly. Both times, though, Jermaine Jenas and Didier Zokora began to deny Paul Scholes space in midfield, forcing Tevez to drop deep in search of possession.

United was unable to convert its periods of possession into clear opportunities as Ronaldo put two free kicks over the bar and Tottenham defenders Michael Dawson and Ledley King made diving blocks to get in the way of efforts by Tevez and Darron Gibson.

Ronaldo had been subdued by Tottenham left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto for most of the match and his attacking efforts curtailed further by a 67th-minute yellow card for diving in the area. Nani and Tevez both went close for United, while Gibson and Rio Ferdinand both missed the target with long-range efforts.

Many of Spurs' best chances were wasted by Roman Pavlyuchenko, who put a free header high and wide while unmarked and did the same with a free kick before being replaced by O'Hara.

That allowed Luka Modric to push up in support of Bent and led to a period of sustained pressure as Zokora, Modric and Lennon probed patiently for an opening that eventually came in the 71st. Modric allowed a cross to run to Lennon on the right of the area and his hard shot sailed past Jonny Evans but was pushed away by Foster.

Spurs still threatened, particularly when Foster stopped Bent's rebound shot after Modric had an effort blocked, but United was too strong and the defense that until last weekend went a record 14 league games without conceding held out.


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