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CORNER KICKS

Times Staff Writer

1 The European Champions League was guaranteed a historic all-English final when Manchester United defeated Barcelona, 1-0, at Old Trafford on Tuesday to advance to the May 21 championship game in Moscow.

Midfielder Paul Scholes scored the lone goal in the series with a rocket-like shot in the 14th minute after the teams had played to a scoreless tie in the first leg in Barcelona.

In the final at Luzhniki Stadium, Manchester United will play the winner of today’s game between Chelsea and Liverpool.

Never before in the 52-year history of the competition, previously known as the European Cup, have two teams from England reached the final. The last time Manchester United went this far, in 1999, it scored twice in the dying minutes to defeat Bayern Munich, 2-1, in Barcelona. Scholes missed that game because of a suspension.

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His goal came after teammate Cristiano Ronaldo had the ball stripped from him by Barcelona defender Gianluca Zambrotta, only for the Italian World Cup winner to make a mess of his clearance kick.

The ball fell to Scholes, whose swerving 25-yard shot soared into the upper right corner of the Barcelona net, well out of reach for goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

2 The second Champions League finalist will be decided today when Chelsea is at home to Liverpool after escaping from Anfield with a 1-1 tie in the first leg.

Chelsea Coach Avram Grant has accused Liverpool Coach Rafael Benitez of trying to influence Italian referee Roberto Rossetti with several comments Benitez has made, in particular those concerning Chelsea forward Didier Drogba’s penchant for diving and exaggerating fouls.

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“He is very, very strong, but he falls down,” Benitez said of Drogba. “He slips a lot. Everybody can see this every game, it is very clear, and hopefully the Italian referee, who has some experience in Europe, will see it as well.”

Countered Grant: “I think he is trying to affect the referee, but he will not do that.”

Liverpool knocked out Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals in 2005 and 2007.

3 Brazil will prepare for its World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay on June 14 and against Argentina on June 17 by playing a pair of friendly matches in the U.S.

Coach Dunga’s squad will play Canada on May 31 in Seattle and Venezuela on June 6 in Boston. Argentina will also be readying for the qualifying matches with two U.S. games -- against Mexico in San Diego on June 4 and against the U.S. in New Jersey on June 8.

4 Former Brazilian great Ronaldo is recovering in Rio de Janeiro after ligament surgery on his left knee, but he managed to make news anyway.

Police in Rio said they questioned AC Milan’s two-time World Cup winner after he was involved in an altercation with three transvestites in a motel.

According to Carlos Augusto Nogueira, chief of the local police precinct, Ronaldo knew the three were prostitutes but got into an argument with them after learning they were transvestites instead of women and when one of them tried to extort money from him.

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“He admitted everything, he wanted to have fun,” Nogueira told reporters. “But he committed no crime at all, it was immoral at best.”

5 It has not taken Ali Daei long to get into a fight with Iran’s soccer federation -- he has accused the group’s leader, Ali Kafashian, of delaying tactics in the matter of his contract as national team coach.

“If Kafashian does not have time to talk with me about friendly matches and my contract, then I am not free either,” Daei, once one of the world’s top strikers, said in Tehran. “I have not won my honor so easily that I can lose it this way.

“If things go on like this, we should think about something else and they could appoint someone else who they like.”

Daei was named Iran’s coach this year. The team is in talks for two friendly matches in California, including one against the Galaxy.


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