`I've got to pinch myself to make sure that it's real'

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In the week that he made his full England debut, Robbie Fowler further embellished his claims for a place in the national side's starting eleven with two goals in yesterday's FA Cup semi-final.

By taking his season's tally to 33, he ensured Liverpool denied Aston Villa a second Wembley appearance with a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford. Liverpool now face Manchester United in the final.

Fowler enthused: "The FA Cup is the best competition in the world and to score twice in the semis is brilliant."

Villa, the Coca-Cola Cup winners, already beaten twice in the Premiership by Liverpool this season, trailed to an early Fowler header. But the match was only put beyond them in the final 10 minutes.

"All through the game Villa kept us on our toes and we only won it late on. At 1-0 you are not guaranteed a place in the final, but once we got the second goal there was only really one winner," Fowler added.

Jason McAteer, who has supported Liverpool since he was a boy, struck the third goal in injury time after Fowler had made it 2-0. McAteer said: "Things just seem to get better and better for me. I've got to pinch myself to make sure it's real. It's unbelievable.

"They tell you there is nothing like playing in an FA Cup semi-final and having played today I can understand why."

The Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, who must now prepare his side to face Newcastle in the Premiership on Wednesday, was delighted at the victory, and with Fowler's contribution in particular. "Sometimes he can be frustrating with the things he does wrong, but the goals he scores are fantastic," Evans said.

"Playing Manchester United at Wembley will be fantastic, but we must put the final on hold for now and concentrate on playing Newcastle.

"It would be criminal to put all our eggs in one basket and rely on the FA Cup for a place in Europe next season. We must pick up as many Premiership points as possible to guarantee it."