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Jose Mourinho will have to conjure up another smash and grab raid at Old Trafford if Chelsea are to reach the final of the Carling Cup. Mourinho's Porto dumped United out of the Champions League last season, and Chelsea will now have to emulate that success if they are to progress to the final. Mourinho, who after the match was critical of referee Neale Barry, put out a side that was just two short of the team that normally turns out in the Premiership. Only goalkeeper Petr Cech and suspended Dutch winger Arjen Robben were missing from his line-up.
Ferguson kept Alan Smith and Paul Scholes on the bench but Louis Saha returned from a knee injury for his first game in two months while Gabriel Heinze, Wayne Rooney and Mikael Silvestre made their first appearances of United's Carling Cup campaign.
The tie got off to a pulsating start - Damien Duff firing just wide of the target with a 25-yard drive in the 11th minute. United, meanwhile, had two early penalty appeals turned down by Barry who adjudged that neither Saha or Cristiano Ronaldo had been illegally challenged by the Chelsea defence.
Chelsea opened the stronger but could not turn possession into clear opportunities. They had a goal correctly ruled out for offside when Eidur Gudjohnsen tucked home a Duff volley. In the 38th minute, Carlo Cudicini had to be at his best to tip a header from Rooney around the post after Darren Fletcher's cross had found him unmarked eight yards out.
The second half, a fracas between Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba aside, seemed to pass largely without controversy, although John Terry spoke of an inexplicable change in the style of the refereeing after the break. Despite Chelsea's complaints and an excellent defensive performance from United - Chelsea could easily have won the game after the break, Frank Lampard and Jiri Jarosik both having efforts cleared off the line. United, though, held out to ensure that the second leg will begin level. Just as fascinating will be the war of words that surrounds it.
* Andrew Flintoff will play in the fourth Test against South Africa but only because the team will include every quick bowler in the squad in case his stomach muscle injury causes him to break down, writes Ted Corbett in Johannesburg. On Wednesday night the England selectors - Michael Vaughan, the captain, and Duncan Fletcher, the coach - left out Ashley Giles, one of their most successful players. Out went not just a fine defensive bowler who had played in 13 of the 14 Tests since they began their run of success 10 months ago but one who had taken 41 wickets at 31.37, and scored his valuable runs at an average 27.57.
Vaughan said of Flintoff: "We rested him after the defeat in the third Test because of his torn muscle. We have monitored his work in the nets and we are sure that his injury is just a slight niggle. If he is missing it will be a huge blow." So Flintoff will be used in short bursts and covered by James Anderson who has taken no part in the first three games that have left the series level 1-1. "Jimmy has been swinging the ball in the nets and that is important on this pitch," said Vaughan.
On Wednesday night winds swept rain clouds across the High Veld lending support to the theory that the Test at The Wanderers could be settled by overcast skies in the first session. Jimmy Cook, one of the great South African batsmen, said: "The pitch is good but it will be difficult early on the first day." If Flintoff, Anderson, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones get first chance to bowl they might cut down South Africa's batting but that depends on Vaughan winning the toss. South Africa captain Graeme Smith has beaten him seven times out of eight.
* Spanish international Fernando Morientes is finally on his way to Liverpool, according to Real Madrid. The 28-year-old, one of Europe's leading strikers last season while on loan at Champions League finalists Monaco, has been pushing for a move to join the Reds' former Valencia coach Rafael Benitez. Madrid said they had agreed to sell Morientes for €9m (£6.3m).
* The fate of the 2005 World Swimming Championships is to be decided next week after host city Montreal ran into financial difficulties. The prospect of the event being moved or even cancelled increased after the organisers were given a deadline of Tuesday to assure international swimming officials they had the necessary funding. Organisers have raised only C$4m (£1.75m) of the C$12m needed, with low sponsorship and ticket sales. The Canadian federal, Quebec provincial and Montreal municipal govern-ments, which have contributed US$30m (£16m), say they will not bail out the championships, which are due to be held in July.
* Tim Henman warmed up for the Australian Open with a comfortable 6-1 7-5 victory over David Nalbandian in his opening match of the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne. Henman raced through the first set and, although he was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, he won the next two games. Henman meets world number one Roger Federer in his next match tomorrow. The Wimbledon champion beat Gaston Gaudio 5-7 6-1 6-4 as he tuned up for his defence of the Australian Open title.
* The British Racing Drivers' Club has ousted chairman Ray Bellm in a surprise move. Bellm leaves after a year as chairman but the move does not affect the British grand prix at Silverstone, according to BRDC president Sir Jackie Stewart. Bellm helped to negotiate an extended contract for Silverstone to host the grand prix for the next five years, despite initial disagreements with Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone. Stewart said the move was an internal matter for the BRDC and the principal issue was "corporate governance".