Birmingham advances to League Cup final vs Arsenal

Birmingham rallied for a 3-1 overtime victory over West Ham on Wednesday night and a 4-3 aggregate win, advancing to the League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley on Feb. 27.

With West Ham ahead 2-1 from the first leg of the total-goal series, Carlton Cole gave the Hammers a 3-1 aggregate lead in the 31st minute. But goals by Lee Bowyer in the 59th and Roger Johnson in the 79th forced overtime, and Craig Gardner scored on a 25-yard shot in the 94th.

Birmingham's only major trophy is the 1963 League Cup.

In the Premier League, John Pantsil's own-goal on an attempted clearance in the 53rd minute gave Liverpool a 1-0 win over Fulham at Anfield.

Liverpool (9-10-5), reviving under new manager Kenny Dalglish, moved into seventh with 32 points. Fulham (5-8-11) is 15th with 26 points, four above the relegation zone.


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi scored twice in the first half to raise his season total to 35 goals, then set up Seydou Keita for the final goal to lead Barcelona over visiting Almeria 5-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals.

Messi's second goal was Barcelona's 100th this season. Barcelona has outscored opponents 102-22 in 35 matches (27-3-5) in all competitions this season and has five or more goals in nine matches.

Messi scored in the ninth and 16th minutes, giving him five goals against Almeria this season, and assisted on Keita's goal in the 89th. Messi has eight two-goal games and two three-goal games this season.

David Villa scored in the 11th and Pedro Rodriguez in the 31st. Barcelona has outscored Almeria 13-0 in two games this season.

The second leg of the total-goals series is at Almeria on Feb. 2.

In the other semifinal, Karim Benzema scored in the 17th minute to help Real Madrid to a win on coach Jose Mourinho's 48th birthday, 1-0 at Sevilla.

Just before halftime, Madrid defender Raul Albiol slowed Luis Fabiano's goal-bound shot, slid into the goal and then stabbed the ball off the line and out. TV replays suggested the ball may have crossed the line.

Defending champion Sevilla will look to overcome the deficit in the second leg of the total-goal series next week in Madrid.


GENOA, Italy (AP) — Alexandre Pato scored in 16th and 22nd minutes, and AC Milan advanced to the Italian Cup semifinals with a 2-1 win at Sampdoria.

Stefano Guberti scored in the 50th minute for Sampdoria.

Mark Van Bommel and Urby Emanuelson started in their debuts for AC Milan, which will play Palermo in the semifinals.

Defending champion Inter Milan won 5-4 on penalty kicks at Napoli following a 0-0 tie. Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi was the only player to miss in the shootout when he sent the team's third kick over the cross. Cristian Chivu scored the deciding penalty kick for Inter.

Inter will meet the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal between Juventus and Roma.


BERLIN (AP) — Thomas Mueller scored twice to help send Bayern Munich into the semifinals of the German Cup with a 4-0 win at second division Aachen.

Mario Gomez opened the scoring in the 26th minute, Mueller scored on a counterattack in the 75th, then added another goal in the 80th. Arjen Robben added the final goal in the 88th.

Second division team Cottbus beat visiting Hoffenheim 1-0 on substitute Jiayi Shao's goal in the 84th, and Duisberg, another second division club, defeated visiting Kaiserslautern 2-0 om goals by Branimir Bajic in the 36th and Goran Sukalo in the 58th.

Schalke advanced on Tuesday.


GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Celtic routed third-place Hearts 4-0 on to stay five points ahead of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Anthony Stokes scored a goal in each half, adding to goals by James Forrest and Paddy McCourt, to inflict on Hearts only a second defeat since October.

Rangers cruised to a 2-0 victory over second-bottom Aberdeen, courtesy of goals by Madjid Bougherra and Nikica Jelavic.

Hearts is five points behind Rangers, which has two games in hand over Celtic.