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MIDWEEK WRAPUP: International Soccer Headliners
by Paul Kennedy, September 27th, 2007 7AM

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TAGS:  england, italy, spain

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MATCH/MAN. UNITED-COVENTRY
Maltese international Michael Mifsud, who goes by the nickname of "the Mosquito," scored twice to give Championship League (second-level) club Coventry City a 2-0 win at Manchester United Wednesday in the English League Cup.

United suffered its first defeat at Old Trafford to lower league opponents since York City's triumph in 1995. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was "flabbergasted" by his young team's performance against Coventry. He didn't start any of the 12 players who played in Sunday's 2-0 EPL win over Chelsea, but he said he expected more from the likes of summer signings Anderson and Nani.

"We have trumpeted these young lads a lot," said Ferguson, "so what has happened tonight was a big shock for us all."

PLAYER/LIONEL MESSI
Who needs Ronaldinho? With the Brazilian star sidelined, Lionel Messi again starred for Barcelona.

The 20-year-old Argentina forward scored two goals in the first 11 minutes to lead Barcelona to a 4-1 home victory over Real Zaragoza on Wednesday night.

Messi's performance made a believer out of Zaragoza coach Victor Fernandez. "Messi is probably the best player in the world at the moment, not only for his goals but for his all-round play," Fernandez said.

With the win, Barca climbed to third, one behind the leaders Villarreal and Valencia. (Real Madrid can regain the lead with a win over Real Betis on Thursday night.)

COACH/RAFAEL BENITEZ
Despite Fernando Torres' hat trick at Reading in Liverpool's 4-2 win on Tuesday in their English League Cup third-round win, Reds manager Rafael Benitez refused to promise his countryman a regular starting place.

Liverpool fans were furious with Benitez for resting Fernando Torres, a $50 million acquisition from Atletico Madrid over the summer, for recent goalless Premier League draws with Portsmouth and Birmingham.

"With Fernando's pace you know he will kill defenders and he had a terrific game," said Benitez. "If he is not injured and if he keeps training well, maybe he will start the game against Wigan on Saturday. We have four good strikers and I need to watch all of them. If you play well, you have got a chance, and as a manager you have to make difficult decision."

RACE/SERIE A
Defending UEFA Champions League champion AC Milan fell into ninth place in Serie A when it lost, 2-1, at Palermo on Fabrizio Miccoli's goal on a free kick in stoppage time on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Inter Milan pulled into a tie with leader Roma when it beat Sampdoria, 3-0, and Roma tied Fiorentina, 2-2, on the road. Roma was leading with 10 minutes to go when Romanian Adrian Mutu converted a penalty with a cheeky chip.

Juventus, which crushed Reggina, 4-0, and Napoli, a 1-0 winner over Livorno, are tied for third place one point behind Roma and Inter.



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