Newcastle United 0 – 2 Arsenal. Arsenal clawed Manchester City’s lead at the Premier League summit back to one point after they came out on top in a thriller against Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Mikel Arteta’s side, who have played one game more than the champions, responded superbly to the pressure exerted by Manchester City’s victory over Leeds United to prevail in an action-packed, edgy encounter littered with chances on Tyneside.
Newcastle, attempting to strengthen their push for a place in the Champions League next season, started at lightning pace – Jacob Murphy hitting the post and having a penalty award overturned by VAR.
Arsenal, however, showed their strength and it was inspirational captain Martin Odegaard who followed up his double against Chelsea in midweek by drilling his 15th Premier League goal of the season past Newcastle keeper Nick Pope from 25 yards after 14 minutes.
What followed was a magnificent game full of opportunities in a frenzied atmosphere, Pope saving crucially from Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Odegaard before half-time. Martinelli also struck the bar after the break.
Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale also produced vital stops from Joe Willock and Fabian Schar, with Alexander Isak heading against the post, before The Gunners broke clear to wrap up the three points – Schar turning Martinelli’s cross into his own net in the 71st minute.
This was a huge examination of all the improvements Arsenal have made this season as they walked into the St James’ Park hothouse, with expectations high for Newcastle United as they chase Champions League football.
The game began in a wall of sound with Newcastle intent on overpowering Arsenal in a frantic start that had the Gunners in retreat.
For all the premature talk of “chokers” when Arsenal went four league games without a win, they showed there are new reserves of character and resilience to go with all the natural talent they possess.
And no-one exemplifies it more than captain Odegaard, who continued his outstanding season with the crucial first goal, another one of those sweet strikes that have become his trademark.
Arsenal’s big concern was that they might pay for their failure to take one of several gilt-edged opportunities in the first half, but they were able to close out this crucial win after Schar’s own goal.
And Arsenal showed they have added another side to the game with their attempts to slow the game down to break up Newcastle’s rhythm and momentum.
It enraged the home fans and Newcastle manager Eddie Howe’s assistant Jason Tindall in particular, but it is a tactic the Magpies have used themselves this season when it has suited them.
Arsenal are still second favourites as they pursue their first title since 2003/2004 but they demonstrated again they are determined to take the race all the way.
Newcastle United’s fans could not hide their disappointment at the final whistle as all their efforts to dent Arsenal’s title challenge and lift their own Champions League aspirations came to nothing.
It removes some of the margin for error as they chase a place in the top four, but the manner in which they ran Arsenal so close and made the margins so fine was an example of their progress this season.
Who knows what might have happened had Murphy’s shot in the opening minutes gone in instead of bouncing back off the woodwork? But in the end Arsenal had the better chances and claimed the three points.
The Toon Army is alive with self-belief and optimism, even cheering their side loudly after the final whistle as manager Howe took his players on a lap around the pitch.
Isak showed what a quality acquisition he has been, but there was no joy for key midfield man Bruno Guimaraes who did not have one of his better days.
Newcastle stay third, two points ahead of Liverpool in fifth, the good news for Howe and his players being that they remain firmly in control of their own destiny.
source – BBC