Almunia saves his blushes as Arsenal silence the Toon - Match report

Arsenal took a giant stride towards securing Champions League football next season with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Newcastle United at a packed St James’s Park. The home side had started with intent and energy and the first quarter of the match saw the North East side ask the Arsenal back four many searching questions. The return of Obafemi Martins to the Geordie attack was combined with Kevin Nolan’s physical presence in midfield. In defence they had the determination of Steven Taylor combined with the flair of Bassong. The volume of noise from the supporters confirmed the importance of this game. Now in the bottom three courtesy of victories by Portsmouth and Stoke City earlier in the day, there was a real risk that Newcastle would become serious contenders for relegation.
It was Andrei Arshavin who had the worse of the exchanges, receiving first a kick then a nasty forearm smash on the half hour from the two Geordie Taylors. Bendtner forced a save from Steve Harper with a well taken shot from the right after being played in well by Robin van Persie on 13 minutes. The formation adopted by Arsene Wenger saw Bendtner in his 50th Premier League appearance for our club as point man. Robin van Persie played just in behind with Diaby and Denilson occupying a defensive role. The Arsenal midfield stuttered slightly but a good performance from my man of the match Denilson steadied the nerves Samir Nasri appeared to have a free role centrally coming quite deep at times, even being involved in a shout for a penalty on 19mins as Duff went to ground. Referee Halsey seemed to be very laid back and I can only recall seeing one yellow card..
The Barcodes disappointment about Ref Mike Halsey denial of their penalty claim soon turned to joy as Ryan Taylor was bundled to the floor after a fluffed attempt to gather a high ball by Almunia. Obafemi Martins stepped up to the take the resulting penalty which was well saved by Almunia diving low to his left. It had been an innocuous cross from the right from Damien Duff,  food and drink for a premiership keeper, but the spaniard contrived to completely mess up his attempt to gather the ball from 15 yards out. On 30 minutes Clichy showed his return to form by saving an almost certain Newcastle goal as the striking replacement for Michael Owen, Lovenkrands as Toure misjudged a through ball. Shortly afterwards a wonderful jinxing run by Arshavin saw him unleash a fierce twenty-five yard shot which grazed the Newcastle crossbar. It was Steven Taylor who prevented the Gunners from going into the interval with a lead, having made some amazing defensive blocks.
Half-time: Newcastle Utd 0 Arsenal 0
The second half saw more purpose from the Gunners, aided by the exit of Newcastle central defender Bassong near the end of the first half. The Geordie crowd was silenced after Arsenal took the lead through Bendtner after Ryan Taylor conceded a stupid free kick out on the left flank, by pulling down Clichy. The resulting cross by Arshavin was pure quality and Bendtner headed the ball high into the top left hand corner. It was less than a minute later that Obafemi Martins’s shot from 18 yards restored parity as Gallas failed to clear the ball. It was comical, and reminded Arsenal that they could take nothing for granted.
Newcastle Utd 1 (Martins 58’) Arsenal 1 (Bendtner 57’)
Robin van Persie has a strange record currently at Arsenal, with Arsenal having scored more goals went he is not playing, but when he plays he is the main provider of assists. He carried on this provider role with a wonderful one two with Diaby after Steven Taylor had left the field with an ankle injury to receive treatment. Diaby’s powerful run from deep midfield past where Taylor would have been was finished with a powerful right footed shot past Harper into the roof of the Newcastle net. van Persie’s selfishness towards the end of the game, lost him the man of the match award from me. We cannot afford to squander good chances against better teams. But let’s move on.
Newcastle Utd 1 Arsenal 2 (Diaby 64’)
The introduction of Michael Owen failed to improve the prospects of recovery, and now it was the Arsenal Away fans whose chants rang around St Jamess Park as many Geordie fans held their heads in their hands with disbelief. Samir Nasri buried the Barcodes finally with a wonderful angled run from the right side of the 18 yard box. Robin van Persie slid in a Berkamp style pass into his stride and the Frnechman lashed a low hard shot past Harper’s near post.
Newcastle Utd 1 Arsenal 3 (Nasri 68’)
Arsenal proceeded to create more chances and place the Geordies under pressure but between Bendtner and van Persie, the chances were squandered. But no matter, the game was won and Arsenal now have a three point lead over Aston Villa, who have to face a Liverpool side buoyed by the defeat of Manchester United by Fulham 2-0 yesterday. Liverpool must beat the midlanders in order to close the gap to one point. Arsene Wenger was upbeat in his post match interview, even suggesting that there was a billion to one chance of us lifting the title. I for one will be satisfied with a finish in the top three.
Full Time: Newcastle Utd 1 Arsenal 3
Newcastle United:
Harper, S. Taylor(65’), Coloccini, Bassong(38), Jose Enrique, R. Taylor, Butt(c) Nolan, Duff, Lovenkrands(78’), Martins
Subs : Geremi, Smith,Owen(65’), Beye(38’), Smith, Gutierrez, Ameobi(78’)
Almunia, Sagna, Gallas, Toure, Diaby, Arshavin(73), Denilson, Denilson, Nasri, van Persie, Bendtner(88’).
Subs: Eduardo, Song(73’), Eboue(88’), Gibbs, Fabianski, Vela, Djourou
Referee : Mike Halsey
Yellow card : William Gallas
My MOTM: Denilson
Well done Arsenal! The the momentum which is now building is almost the exact opposite of how we played last season. With the news that Theo Walcott’s knee injury is not as bad as first feared, the return of Captain Fabregas to the side when Arsenal play Manchester City at the Emirates after this International break. I have been criticised roundly for placing my faith in Arsene Wenger and being loyal to our team, I have refused to join the doom merchants in writing off the Gunners, urging you all to give your support loudly and positively. The lads have acknowledged the good support from the fans and have responded. There are still weaknesses and errors , but I saw many more one touch passing from this young Arsenal side, that is at last beginning to believe that they can win something this season. Keep supporting your team loudly! Well done you Gooners.
Fabregas the King.

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