- Associated Press - Saturday, January 25, 2014

LONDON (AP) - Sergio Aguero’s late hat trick rescued Manchester City from FA Cup humiliation at the hands of second-tier Watford, ushering the Premier League title favorites into the fifth round with a 4-2 win Saturday. Liverpool and Everton also advanced.

The biggest shock of this season’s competition was on when Watford took a 2-0 lead after 30 minutes at Etihad Stadium, only for a remarkable Aguero-led comeback by City in the final half-hour.

The Argentina striker produced clinical finishes in the 60th and 79th minutes to level the score before Aleksandar Kolarov put City in front in the 87th. Aguero completed his hat trick in injury time, keeping Manuel Pellegrini’s side in contention for silverware on four fronts this season.

“I wanted to change all of my players at halftime, all 11 of them,” Pellegrini said. “The whole team was a disaster in the first half.”

There were no such worries for Liverpool, which beat second-tier Bournemouth 2-0 away courtesy of goals by Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge, and Everton, which eased past third-tier Stevenage 4-0 largely thanks to Steven Naismith’s first-half pair of goals. Tim Howard did not play for the Toffees, whose victory was marred by a suspected broken left leg suffered by Costa Rica international Bryan Oviedo, which could rule him out of the World Cup this summer.

Premier League teams Southampton, Cardiff, Swansea, Hull and Jozy Altidore’s Sunderland - a 1-0 winner over non-league side Kidderminster - also advanced but Crystal Palace, which is battling relegation in the top flight, was eliminated after losing 2-1 at defending champion Wigan.


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo paraded his Ballon d’Or trophy and scored his league-leading 22nd goal, helping Real Madrid to provisionally move to the top of the Spanish league with a 2-0 win over Granada on Saturday.

Ronaldo soaked up an ovation from fans in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as he held up his award for the best player in the world in 2013 before the match, which he then put his stamp on with a pinpoint strike to score in the 56th minute.

Karim Benzema sealed Madrid’s ninth straight win - and seventh consecutive clean sheet - in all competitions in the 74th, moments after Ronaldo’s deflected free kick clipped the crossbar.

Madrid moved two points above Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who both play on Sunday.

“My team is playing perfectly in 2014,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “It has balance between attack and defense. That’s the key. We haven’t won any silverware yet … but our games in 2014 have been perfect.”

Also, Valladolid ended Villarreal’s three-game winning run with a 1-0 victory at home courtesy of defender Jesus Rueda’s 40th-minute header to provisionally escape the relegation zone.

Later, Valencia hosted Espanyol, Levante was at Sevilla.

Barcelona hosts Malaga on Sunday while Atletico visits Rayo Vallecano.


BERLIN - Freiburg defeated Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 and Borussia Dortmund was held 2-2 at home by Augsburg as Bayern Munich’s main title rivals both faltered in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Meanwhile, American Timmy Chandler scored the first goal for Nuremberg in a 4-0 win over Hoffenheim.

Freiburg midfielder Felix Klaus scored in the last minute as his side twice came from behind to climb provisionally out of the relegation zone.

Lars Bender scored with Leverkusen’s first shot in the fourth minute and Admir Mehmedi equalized with a fine strike in the 27th before Simon Rolfes restored the visitors’ lead eight minutes later.

Jonathan Schmid’s free kick squeezed inside the near post in the 53rd, thanks to a light deflection from Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling on his 30th birthday, and Klaus scored the winning goal on a counter attack.

Dortmund endured an afternoon to forget as the side’s bad luck with injuries continued. Poland midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski sustained suspected cruciate ligament damage to his right knee in the third minute.

Sven Bender headed home side Dortmund in front in the fifth - one minute after his twin brother had opened the scoring for Leverkusen - but conceded an own goal in the 56th, when he deflected Andre Hahn’s cross into his own net.

Nuri Sahin restored Dortmund’s lead from a free kick in the 66th, only for South Korea midfielder Ji Dong-won, who will join Dortmund next season, to score Augsburg’s equalizer in the 72nd just two minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Bayern now leads second-place Leverkusen by 10 points with a game in hand, while Dortmund is another four points off the pace.

Hannover won 3-1 at Wolfsburg for its first away win, and Mainz earned a 2-1 win at Stuttgart.

Alexander Meier’s 36th-minute strike against the run of play was enough for Eintracht Frankfurt to defeat Hertha Berlin 1-0 in the late game.


PARIS (AP) - Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc criticized his team’s sloppy defending at set pieces after narrowly avoiding a second straight defeat in a scrappy 1-1 draw at mid-table Guingamp on Saturday.

Brazil center half Alex headed home from a corner in the 87th minute after striker Mustapha Yatabare had done the same three minutes earlier to give Guingamp the lead. PSG lost 2-1 at home to Montpellier in the French Cup on Wednesday and was outplayed by Guingamp for much of the match.

“We’ve conceded two goals in three games from set pieces,” Blanc said. “At the moment our opponents know that they can hurt us on corners and free kicks. We always seem to have a player who’s not really concentrating and loses their player. The same thing happened against Montpellier.”

Second-place Monaco can close the gap at the top to three points if beats Marseille at home on Sunday.



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