Ronaldo fires ManU in final yet again

LONDON: Manchester United swept into the Champions League final as the defending champions produced a stunning 3-1 win over Arsenal in their second leg semi-final match on Tuesday.

Alex Ferguson's side arrived at the Emirates Stadium holding only a slender 1-0 lead from last week's first leg, but United scored twice in the first 11 minutes to set up a 4-1 aggregate triumph that booked their place in the final against either Chelsea or Barcelona.

United, who beat Chelsea in last year's final, were given a helping hand from Arsenal as winger Park Ji-Sung punished an embarrassing slip from Kieran Gibbs to open the scoring. Cristiano Ronaldo then deceived Manuel Almunia with a long-range free-kick, and the Portuguese striker put the result beyond doubt when he added his second goal after half-time.

Arsenal barely tested United keeper Edwin van der Sar until Robin van Persie converted a late penalty after Darren Fletcher was sent off, ruling him out of the final, for a foul on Cesc Fabregas. Even that couldn't detract from a fantastic display from United, who are the first defending champions to reach the final since Juventus in 1997.

They were simply outstanding and exposed the flaws in Arsene Wenger's inexperienced, injury-hit team with ruthless efficiency. Wenger admits he will consider overhauling Arsenal's young squad after the Gunners were taught a Champions League lesson by Manchester United.

No team has retained the trophy in the Champions League era, but United are hitting new heights and, with the Club World Cup and League Cup already won and the Premier League within touching distance, they are close to a memorable quadruple.

Arsenal were fortunate to be trailing by just one goal after a timid display at Old Trafford and the onus was on Wenger's side to make a fast start. For once the normally subdued Emirates crowd were at fever pitch, but Ferguson had talked up United's intention to press for a crucial away goal and they were true to his word.

In the eighth minute, Anderson slipped a pass to Ronaldo down the left and the Portugal winger proved he had adapted to his new role as a lone forward by finding space in the penalty area to whip in a low cross. Even then Arsenal should have cleared the danger but Gibbs, a teenage midfielder pressed into service at left-back in the absence of Gael Clichy, slipped over and could only watch from a prone position as Park took a touch before guiding his shot past Almunia.

There was worse to come three minutes later. When van Persie fouled Ronaldo way out on the right flank, there appeared little danger. But Almunia had reckoned without Ronaldo's flair for the unexpected. Ronaldo had scored from 40 yards to beat Porto in the last round and, from a similar distance, he took aim and launched a thunderous strike towards Almunia, who appeared to lose sight of the ball as it flashed past him at the near post.

The visitors continued to counter-attack imperiously after half-time and in the 61st minute Ronaldo capped a sublime break in clinical style. He started the move with a backheel to Park, who cleverly spread play wide to Rooney on the left. Rooney's cross was perfectly weighted for Ronaldo to drive past Almunia. Ferguson could even afford the luxury of substituting Rooney and Patrice Evra to ensure the duo didn't earn a booking which would have ruled them out of the final.

Arsenal fan commits suicide

NAIROBI: An Arsenal fan in football-mad Kenya hung himself following his team's 4-1 aggregate drubbing by Manchester United in the Champions League semi-final, police said on Wednesday.

Suleiman Alphonso Omondi, a 29-year-old Kenyan living in Nairobi's Embakasi neighbourhood, hung himself in his Arsenal shirt late on Tuesday after the match, police said.

Football-related domestic tragedies are frequent in the region, where English clubs enjoy passionate following and European tournament draw more attention than national and continental games. — AFP