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The FA Cup final will be a battle of two sides desperate to avoid finishing the season without silverware after Manchester United hammered a supine Newcastle 4-1 to set up a meeting with Arsenal, who beat Blackburn 3-0 on Saturday, writes Jonathan Wilson at the Millennium Stadium.
Blackburn at least put up a fight, albeit at times too literally, and there were complaints from Arsene Wenger about Rovers' robust approach. Newcastle, by contrast, were simply swatted aside. While a season without a trophy is all but unthinkable for Arsenal and United, for Newcastle it is the norm. It is 50 years since they last won a domestic competition, and as they beat Chelsea and Tottenham in the previous two rounds there was a confidence-boosting sense that the script was written for Alan Shearer, in what was expected to be his final season, to end that drought.
As soon as Shearer announced he had agreed a player-coaching contract for next season, that force disintegrated. First came the Lee Bowyer-Kieron Dyer spat, which cost Newcastle both players on Sunday, then a Uefa Cup defeat to Sporting that was overshadowed by Laurent Robert's comments that the team has deteriorated over the past 12 months. That game brought injuries for Jermaine Jenas and Titus Bramble. At full strength Newcastle would have found their task difficult; so weakened, it was impossible.
Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson had criticised United's attitude after last week's defeat at Norwich, but on Sunday the team were committed from the start. Newcastle, always a side to shoot themselves in the foot, helped them on their way. Celestine Babayaro went to ground far too easily, and Cristiano Ronaldo skipped by him and crossed for Ruud van Nistelrooy, capitalising on Jean-Alain Boumsong's slip, to hook into the corner. Paul Scholes headed a second from another Ronaldo cross just before half-time, and Van Nistelrooy got the third after Nicky Butt had surrendered possession. Shola Ameobi pulled one back almost immediately, but Ronaldo put the game beyond any doubt with 14 minutes remaining.
Sunderland looked set to move five points clear in the Championship when Carl Robinson fired them into a 2-1 lead six minutes from time but Marcus Bent of Ipswich salvaged a draw. Despite a pit-stop two-thirds into the race, Paula Radcliffe ran away with the London Marathon for the third time yesterday, winning the 25th anniversary event in 2hr 17min 42sec and earning an estimated $1m (530,000), writes Pat Butcher. This was Radcliffe's sixth win out of six in big city marathons, and the time was third only to her world record of 2.15.25, set in London in 2003 and 2.17.18 in Chicago 2002. The only blemish on her distinguished career remains her failure to finish in the Olympic Marathon in Athens last summer. Yesterday's performance will go a long way to vindicating Radcliffe's claims that it was the combination of a leg injury and the anti-inflammatories to combat it, rather than the psychological pressure of being a huge favourite, that provoked her demise in Athens.
A winning margin of more than five minutes - Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania clocked a personal best of 2.22.50 in second place - underlined Radcliffe's superiority. Her only problem was an attack of stomach cramps at 36 kilometres - ironically the point at which she dropped out in Athens - forcing her to crouch down by a drinks station. Radcliffe said: "I've got to apologise to the nation for having to stop but I was losing 10 seconds every time my stomach cramped up. I felt I just had to stop, I was annoyed because I was feeling good. But my stomach got so bad, I thought stop and then I would be able to concentrate on running properly again. It was similar to Athens but the rest of me felt good so there was no danger of me being defeated again. It was totally different, I had no worries about my preparation or my body."
Surprisingly, the men's race was won by Martin Lel of Kenya, given the stellar field, featuring his world record compatriot, Paul Tergat, who finished 8th, and last year's winner Evans Rutto, also of Kenya who was previously unbeaten in marathons. Lel won in 2.07.26 ahead of reigning world champion Jaoud Gharib of Morocco, and New York Marathon champion, Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa. Britain's Jon Brown - twice fourth in the Olympic Games - came through in the final stages to finish 6th in 2.09.31, a personal best. A record field of 35,680 started. In golf, Peter Hanson beat fellow Swede Peter Gustafsson at the first play-off hole for his maiden European tour victory in the Jazztel Spanish Open at San Roque.
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