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Friedel, Blackburn are game against Manchester United, but come up short 2-1.

Kirovski sparks Palace, assists winner over Stockport; club wants to talk new contract.

More inspired play by Friedel has Rovers one step from Worthington Cup title game.

Moore, Everton record uninspired victory, but advance in F.A. Cup.

Reyna’s ankle injury is not as serious as feared; with bone bruise and stretched ligaments, he’s out 3-6 weeks.

Keller is one better than Friedel in head-to-head meeting, Tottenham Hotspur edges Blackburn Rovers 1-0.

Americans Abroad

Friedel provides key save, Blackburn Rovers rout Sheffield Wednesday to advance to Worthington Cup final against surprising Tottenham Hotspur.

By Gary Davidson

(Wednesday, January 23, 2002) -- There will be an American goalkeeper on each side of England’s Worthington Cup final. Whether both play is another story.

Barring injury, it’s virtually certain Brad Friedel will be in goal for Blackburn Rovers who will be playing in their first major final in 42 years when they take on Tottenham Hotspur for the Worthington title match February 24 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Kasey Keller’s presence in the Hotspur net is a less likely proposition.

Already leading 2-1 after the first leg of the semifinal series, Rovers romped 4-2 over Sheffield Wednesday yesterday in the home leg at Ewood Park.

Despite Rovers dominance, Friedel did come up big on the one occasion when it mattered. In the 26th minute and the contest still scoreless, Wednesday’s Gerald Sibon, who moments earlier squandered a prime scoring opportunity, worked free for a fierce 20-yard blast for the top corner that Friedel steered safely away with one hand.

Within the next 11 minutes, Matt Jansen and Damien Duff had put Rovers ahead 2-0.

Blackburn was reduced to 10 men when Garry Flitcroft was shown a red card in the 53rd minute and six minutes later Efan Ekoku converted a penalty kick just beyond an extended Friedel’s right hand to narrow Sheffield’s deficit to 2-1, 4-2 aggregate.

Andy Cole restored the Rovers advantage to 3-1 in the 82nd minute. Three minutes later, Trond Egil Soltvedt kept Wednesday’s faint hopes alive, heading Alan Quinn’s corner kick into the top back corner to make it 3-2, 5-3 aggregate. As Sheffield desperately pushed forward, however, Craig Hignett provided the finishing touches for Rovers with another goal.

Keller was benched by Tottenham after losing 2-1 at Chelsea January 9 in the first leg of their Worthington semifinal. After being again reduced to a backup, Keller asked and received permission to join the United States men for the Gold Cup which is currently in progress with the U.S in the quarterfinals.

With Keller in California and Neil Sullivan in goal tonight, Hotspur ended 12 years of frustration and 26 matches without a win against Chelsea with a 5-1 rout for a 6-3 aggregate victory.

Gary Davidson is managing editor of SoccerTimes and can be e-mailed at editor@soccertimes.com.

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