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Rafa chides Liverpool's American owners
by Paul Kennedy, November 26th, 2007 7AM

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[INTERNATIONAL HEADLINERS] Liverpool's version of Family Feud continued as Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez blasted his American owners for what he perceived to be a lack of knowledge of Europe's transfer system. Manchester United's coaching staff tried to deflect attention for its shock loss at Bolton Wanderers, while goalie Scott Carson, the goat in England's loss to Croatia, returned to action with a shutout win on the road for Aston Villa. In Mexico, the playoffs moved into the semifinals with American Edgar Castillo still in the hunt for the Torneo Apertura championship.

COACH/RAFAEL BENITEZ
Liverpool remained in the thick of the English Premier League race with a 3-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday, but the victory was overshadowed by its Spanish manager Rafael Benitez's criticism of the club's American owners, George Gillett and Tim Hicks.

Benitez questioned their grasp of the European transfer system. "It's not a draft system. We have free players available now," he said. "I'm not talking about players that cost money. We need to talk to the agents now, if not we will lose targets. In the summer, the players will be more expensive. I have not been talking about spending but doing the opposite."

Gillett and Hicks later on Sunday attempted to calm the situation. "Despite speculation in today's newspapers, there is nothing new to say," the statement said. "We had a good win yesterday and have got some very important games coming up starting with Porto on Wednesday, followed by Bolton and Reading, before Marseille and Manchester United in a few weeks." They plan to meet Rafa in mid-December to make decisions on the team's midseason moves.

MATCH/BOLTON-MAN. UNITED
Bolton Wanderers knocked Manchester United out of its first-place tie with Arsenal with a 1-0 victory on Saturday thanks to Frenchman Nicolas Anelka's early goal.

The win was Bolton's first under Gary Megson since he took over for Sammy Lee, but Megson was forced to defend his players amid a frontal attack by United's coaching staff. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called the first 45 minutes a "shambles" and was so critical of referee Mark Clattenburg that was ordered to watch the rest of the game from stands, while United assistant Carlos Queiroz called Bolton's tactics "intimidation football."

Megson was non-plussed by the charges. "We have to compete and I am not going to criticize them for competing," he said. "I've got nothing to apologize for."

PLAYER/SCOTT CARSON
Four days after his blunder cost England the first goal in its 3-2 loss to Croatia that knocked it out of Euro '08, Scott Carson returned to work at Aston Villa and recorded a 3-0 shutout at Middlesbrough.

Carson received a chorus of boos from the Boro fans, but Villa manager Martin O'Neill said his young keeper responded brilliantly.

"I'm delighted for him," said O'Neill of Carson. "He was expecting a bit of stick and he certainly got it. He's a young lad. He's very, very disappointed about Wednesday. I think at the moment the whole nation is hurting badly having expected to qualify."

RACE/LIGA MEXICANA
Santos, Atlante, Guadalajara and UNAM advanced to the semifinals of Mexico's Torneo Apertura with wins over the weekend.

In the big upset, UNAM knocked off Toluca, which had finished 10 points in front of Pumas in the regular season. UNAM held on for a 1-1 tie at Toluca after winning, 3-1, in Mexico City. Guadalajara got a scare from San Luis before winning the second leg, 1-0, on Sergio Santana's penalty kick in the 56th minute to prevail, 2-1, on aggregate.

American product Edgar Castillo's bid to win a Mexican title remained alive as Santos, the overall leader at the end of the regular season, swept Morelia, 2-0 and 3-2. Atlante, in its first season after moving from Mexico City to Cancun, also beat Cruz Azul twice, 1-0 and 2-1.



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