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Arsenal reach FA Cup final

Mike Collett | April 16, 2005 21:04 IST

Two late goals by Dutch substitute Robin van Persie helped Arsenal to an easy 3-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in their FA Cup semi-final on Saturday.

French midfielder Robert Pires side-footed Arsenal in front after 42 minutes before Van Persie, who had only come on in the 82nd minute, finished Rovers off with fine left-footed strikes after 86 minutes and in stoppage time at the Millennium Stadium.

Arsene Wenger's team will face the winners of Sunday's semi-final between Manchester United and Newcastle United in the final on May 21, keeping alive their hopes of finishing the season with a trophy.

It will be Arsenal's 17th appearance in the final, a record Manchester United will match if they win on Sunday, and their fourth appearance in the last five seasons.

Arsenal's win was achieved without top scorer Thierry Henry and centre back Sol Campbell who were both injured.

Even without those players, Arsenal were always too clever and too wily to succumb to a fiercely determined and aggressive Blackburn side who never looked like preventing Arsenal from winning once Pires had struck the opening goal.

FRIEDEL SAVES

Blackburn, trying to reach their first FA Cup final since 1960, committed twice as many fouls as Arsenal -- 27 compared to 13.

Most of those appeared to be on Patrick Vieira in the first half as Rovers attempted to break up Arsenal's rhythm and passing game.

However, their tactics were foiled by impressive performances from both Vieira and Pires. It was never a classic match, and Vieira and Pires have both played better, but they refused to be intimidated by Rovers and one or the other was involved in all three goals.

Although Blackburn were only trailing 1-0 until the closing minutes they never seriously threatened Jens Lehmann in the Arsenal goal, while at the other end a series of fine saves by Brad Friedel kept Arsenal at bay.

"Blackburn started really quite well but we responded and proved how strong we are," Vieira told Sky Sports television. "Robin came on and scored two fantastic goals."

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