Sunderland beats Man United 2-1 on penalties, reaches League Cup final vs Man City - InfoNews

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Sunderland beats Man United 2-1 on penalties, reaches League Cup final vs Man City

Sunderland's Craig Gardner, centre left, celebrates with teammate Adam Johnson after their team's penalty win against Manchester United during their English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Wednesday Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
January 22, 2014 - 3:20 PM

MANCHESTER, England - Manchester United's wretched season has reached a new low after a penalty shootout defeat to Sunderland in a dramatic League Cup semifinal on Wednesday.

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.

United nearly didn't even make it to penalties, with Javier Hernandez scoring in injury time of extra time — moments after Phil Bardsley's shot had been fumbled in by United goalkeeper David de Gea to put Sunderland 3-2 ahead on aggregate.

In a nervy shootout, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones blazed shots over the bar for United and Adnan Januzaj had a shot saved by Mannone, who then dived to his right to parry away Rafael's shot and earn Sunderland a second appearance in the final.

Adam Johnson had earlier missed a chance to put Sunderland through when his penalty — the team's fifth — was saved.

The misery continues for United manager David Moyes in his turbulent first season at the champions.

Rarely can a match in the oft-maligned League Cup have meant so much to England's biggest club — and to its under-pressure coach.

Sunday's defeat to Chelsea virtually ended United's hopes of defending its Premier League title, with barely half of the campaign gone, while the team is already out of the FA Cup. The Champions League now offers the only route to silverware this season, but winning Europe's top prize is unlikely on current form.

After an uncomfortable first half-hour for United, when Sunderland looked composed and settled, the hosts finally applied some decent pressure. And after Darren Fletcher bundled an effort against the post in the 36th, another of United's stalwarts broke the deadlock when Jonny Evans nodded home at the back post after Welbeck hooked on Adnan Januzaj's right-wing corner.

United was missing injured strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie as well as suspended captain Nemanja Vidic, and the absence of these experience leaders showed as Sunderland clawed its way back into the game.

Roared on by 9,000 boisterous fans desperate for a first Wembley Stadium visit since 1992, the visitors increased the tension inside Old Trafford — exerting pressure in the knowledge that a goal would be enough to go through.

With two minutes remaining, De Gea looked to have gifted Sunderland a place in the final when he fumbled Bardsley's shot into his own net.

But Hernandez forced penalties when he slammed a cross from Januzaj in off the crossbar in the first minute of injury time.

The reprieve was temporary as United's fate was sealed in the shootout.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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