United on course for League Cup final

United on course for League Cup final

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Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini (C) scores their second goal against Hull City during the EFL Cup semifinal first leg match at Old Trafford Tuesday. — Reuters
Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini (C) scores their second goal against Hull City during the EFL Cup semifinal first leg match at Old Trafford Tuesday. — Reuters

MANCHESTER — Manchester United closed in on the final of the English League Cup by beating injury-hit Hull 2-0 in the first leg of their semifinal thanks to second-half goals by Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini on Tuesday.

Mata put United on course for a ninth straight win in all competitions by tapping home from close range in the 56th minute and substitute Fellaini headed in a second in the 87th, before bounding to the Old Trafford touchline and into the arms of manager Jose Mourinho.

“The second goal is maybe the important goal,” said Mourinho, who won the League Cup three times with Chelsea and is seeking to reach his first final as United manager.

The second leg is at Hull on Jan. 26 and United is a huge favorite to reach the final for a ninth time. Liverpool plays Southampton in the other semifinal, with the first leg Wednesday.

United dominated throughout, unsurprisingly given the problems faced by an opponent which had an injury crisis so severe that it could only name six substitutes from a possible seven. Things got worse for Hull at Old Trafford, with two players — Markus Henriksen and Josh Tymon — helped off with apparent shoulder injuries.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent because of illness, Wayne Rooney was given a start by United manager Jose Mourinho — handing the England captain another chance to break United’s goal-scoring record he currently shares with Bobby Charlton (249).

Rooney had two chances to get sole ownership of the record but in vain.

Atletico reaches quarters

Antoine Griezmann scored a goal the day after being named the world’s third-best player, helping Atletico Madrid reach the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey despite a 3-2 home loss to Las Palmas Tuesday.

The France forward missed training to attend FIFA’s awards ceremony in Zurich, where Cristiano Ronaldo took the vote as the best player. But Griezmann got back to Spain in time to help Atletico defend a 2-0 first-leg win and advance 4-3 on aggregate at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Griezmann, who got a loud ovation from the crowd when he was substituted in the 64th minute, has scored in all three matches Atletico has played this year. He hadn’t found the net in five straight games before the winter break.

Griezmann opened the scoring from close range in the 49th minute after a cross by Argentine midfielder Nicolas Gaitan. Las Palmas striker Marko Livaja equalized with a shot from inside the area in the 57th, and Argentine forward Angel Correa put the hosts ahead again in a breakaway in the 61st .

Livaja netted in the 89th and Mateo Garcia scored in injury time to give Las Palmas victory on the night.

Atletico is trying to win the competition for the first time since 2012-13, when it defeated Real Madrid in the final at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Monaco in League Cup semis

Monaco reached the League Cup semi-finals with a 4-3 penalty shootout win at Ligue 2 Sochaux following a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes in a lively encounter Tuesday.

Djibril Sidibe scored what proved to be the winning penalty, with Monaco’s Guido Carrillo and Sochaux’s Moussa Sao missing their teams’ final attempts.

Monaco playmaker Joao Moutinho had equalized with six minutes left to cancel out Faneva Andriatsima’s first-half opener. The tie then went straight to a shootout because for the first time the competition does not feature extra time.

Nancy also advanced with a 2-0 quarter-final win at Nantes as they handed the Canaries a first defeat since former Portugal international Sergio Conceicao became head coach a month ago.

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