SPORT

Arsenal makes F.A. Cup final

CARDIFF: Substitute Robin van Persie scored twice in the last three minutes on Saturday as Arsenal beat Blackburn Rovers 3-0 to reach the FA Cup final for the fourth time in five years.

The score was harsh on Blackburn's American goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who made three reaction saves.

French midfielder Robert Pires tapped in from close range three minutes before halftime to put the Gunners ahead at the Millennium Stadium.

Van Persie, who entered the game in the 83rd minute, rolled home the second goal with three minutes to go and then curled a left-foot strike into the top corner in injury time.

The Gunners will play their record 17th final against either Manchester United or Newcastle on May 21 at the Millennium Stadium. The other semifinal is at the same venue on Sunday.

Rough play alleged

"I feel that Blackburn decided to stop us from playing at any cost," Wenger said. "I'm very proud that we, as such a young team, did not react at all.

"That would have given them an advantage. Patrick (Vieira) was target in the first half and I was a bit scared about him."

Hughes dismissed suggestions that his team played dirty.

"We tried to compete. I don't think we should be criticised for that," Hughes said. "We set out to try and make things difficult for them. Vieira is a big player, a big man and sometimes he has to expect that people will compete against him."

Playing its fifth semifinal in a row and a record 25th, Arsenal had far more quality than Rovers even without Thierry Henry. The Premier League's top scorer was ruled out with a groin injury.

Still, Steven Reid stung the hands of Arsenal 'keeper Jens Lehmann with a 25-metre free kick while

Arsenal's first shot in an untidy first half was a low drive from Jose Antonio Reyes saved by Friedel. Friedel was then forced to make two standout saves within a second of each other to keep Arsenal out. — AP

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