Premier League – Excellent Arsenal sweep Newcastle aside
A depleted Newcastle United side were distinctly second best as they were well beaten 3-0 by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Dutch striker Robin van Persie scored twice, once from the penalty spot, with Denilson getting the third for the Gunners in a match that will be remembered as much for Joey Barton‘s cameo appearance as for the supreme football played by Arsene Wenger’s side.
Scoring looked an inevitability for the home side virtually from the kick-off, with captain William Gallas shooting over the bar from two yards out as early as the third minute, but their reward for complete domination of possession came from the penalty spot after 18 minutes.
Emmanuel Adebayor‘s cross hit the outstretched arm of Charles N’Zogbia, and referee Rob Styles immediately pointed to the spot. Shay Given guessed the right direction but Van Persie’s penalty was too powerful and it flew past the Irish keeper into the sidenetting.
The Dutch striker scored his second of the game and only his third Arsenal goal of an injury-plagued 2008 when he capped off a move more representative of his team’s play.
Again it was Adebayor who put in the telling cross, this time a cut-back ball for Emmanuel Eboue. The midfielder – starting ahead of Theo Walcott – mis-controlled with his first touch when shooting could have been an option, but he rescued the situation with a cheeky backheel that Van Persie slid in to fire into the roof of the net from close range.
If the match could ever have been called a contest, it was ended as such on the hour mark when Denilson wrapped up another fine Arsenal move that involved Samir Nasri and Adebayor to make it 3-0.
Newcastle were struggling with injuries to the extent that manager Kevin Keegan was forced to start an unfit Shola Ameobi up front with Michael Owen and teenage trio Ben Tozer, Ryan Donaldson and Nile Ranger on the bench.
Also named in the matchday squad was controversial midfielder Barton.
The midfielder is set for an FA disciplinary hearing next week after admitting assault on former team-mate Ousmane Dabo. Despite manager Kevin Keegan admitting Barton was not back to full fitness following his spell in prison for assault and affray, Newcastle want to see their £5.8 million investment retain as much of his value as possible.
The Merseysider came on for Jonas Gutierrez in the 89th minute, and was met by a small round of applause from some Newcastle fans and a chorus of boos from the rest of the crowd.
His first contribution to the game was to put in a hard tackle on Nasri, and give the Frenchman a wry smile as he squared up to him. Nasri got his revenge a minute later, however, when he let Barton run past him before slyly tripping him up. Referee Rob Styles spotted the incident and booked Nasri.
Aside from the goals, Arsenal had plenty of other chances to score, and were only thwarted by goalkeeper Shay Given. The Irishman was in outstanding form, making acrobatic saves from Kolo Toure and free-kicks from van Persie and Nasri among others.
As Newcastle’s heads began to drop in the closing stages, Arsenal boss Wenger introduced Walcott and young striker Carlos Vela, and the duo combined excellently for the 19-year-old Mexican to have a an effort blocked on the edge of the area.
Late on Vela, Nasri and Adebayor all displayed wonderful skill in an excellent move that would have produced a contender for goal of the season had Walcott not blasted his shot wide of the near post, but the irresistible Gunners had already made their point.