Arsenal take spoils at St James’ as Newcastle see red
Arsenal eventually capitalised on their numerical advantage, after a nightmare start for Newcastle United, to triumph 1-0 on Tyneside.
It was a scrappy opening half hour at a passionate St James’ Park, though Theo Walcott’s raw pace threatened early on; perhaps illustrating why the speedster was selected over Olivier Giroud, despite the Frenchman’s rampant record on Tyneside.
An excellent first-time ball from Hector Bellerin put the accelerating Englishman one-on-one with Tim Krul, but the keeper came out on top.
Around the 13th minute mark, the Gunners guests were incensed after having a spot-kick shout waved away, despite Florian Thauvin’s evident clip on Bellerin in the Magpies’ box.
Arsenal needen’t have worried, however, as Newcastle were reduced to 10 men soon after, as marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic saw red for a stamp on Francis Coquelin, leaving Steve McClaren’s men with a steep hill to climb.
With Moussa Sissoko, Thauvin and Chancel Mbemba also booked before the break, the opening exchanges became increasingly fiery.
Alexis Sanchez sought to spark the Gunners as he lashed a long-distance strike straight at Krul, though the custodian pushed the ball straight into the path of a galloping Walcott, who shinned the chance into the crowd.
Arsenal’s attack continued to dominate possession but could not break through the Magpies’ resolute rearguard, with powerful Mbemba the pick of the bunch.
Though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain attempted to inject some urgency with a miss-cued bicycle kick, the visitors finished the first half frustrated at their inability to pick the St James’ Park lock.
Vurnon Anita was another to see a cautionary yellow for hauling down Sanchez after the break, with Santi Cazorla and Georginio Wijnaldum soon following him into the book.
Arsenal finally found the target in the 52nd minute, as Fabricio Coloccini, a hero against Manchester United last time out, unluckily deflected a driving shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain into his own net.
Krul competently kept the Gunners at bay shortly after, with a superb close-range stop to keep out Sanchez, who threatened a second goal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was then subsequently switched to the centre forward spot, with Walcott pushed out wide, before being substituted for Giroud in the 69th minute.
McClaren responded swiftly by shuffling his pack too, bringing on Ayoze Perez for added threat, though the striker was again placed on the wing.
Giroud gave the Gunners much more directness, but saw his shot saved by Krul, before the stopper was again called into action, quickly sprinting off his line to intercept a lurking Sanchez.
Arsenal continued to stroke the ball around with ease, threatening through Giroud late on, as the Magpies struggled to create any chances on the counter in the closing stages, providing Arsene Wenger with a crucial three points.