Premier League – Arsenal blitz deepens Newcastle gloom
Arsenal summoned a devastating second-half blitz to dispatch Newcastle 3-1 at St James’ Park and escalate the home side’s Premier League relegation fears.
Newcastle’s goal came from Martins, who equalised Bendtner’s opener to make up in part for his spot-kick failure.
The defeat leaves Newcastle languishing in the relegation zone, having mustered just two points from their last five matches.
The first chance of the night fell to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, when William Gallas found himself unmarked six yards out from a right-wing corner. The French defender mis-timed his leap, however, and grazed a weak header wide.
After an unconvincing opening, Newcastle began to settle. A period of possession followed and when Damien Duff went down under a clumsy challenge from Nasri the home side appealed furiously for a penalty. The referee waved play on, but Newcastle would not have to wait long for an opportunity.
With 23 minutes gone Almunia came to collect Duff’s cross and in the process bundled over Ryan Taylor. The referee awarded the spot-kick, but replays suggested his decision was harsh on the visiting goalkeeper.
Arsenal’s protests were replaced by celebration, however, when Martins stepped up and struck a weak penalty that Almunia saved comfortably.
Taylor had minutes early been accused of directing an elbow at the Russian and television footage may yet lead to further investigation into the incident.
On 39 minutes Newcastle came close twice within a minute. Peter Lovenkrands had the first chance, but the striker failed to connect with a right-wing cross with the goal gaping. Martins then shot first-time from just inside the box and saw his effort fly just past the post.
On the brink of half-time Harper denied Van Persie with a fingertip save, before Steven Taylor once again came to Newcastle’s rescue to deny the Dutchman for the second time in a minute.
The second half began with Newcastle in the ascendancy and it was very much against the run of play when they fell behind on 57 minutes.
Arshavin was the creator, curling in a free-kick from the left that Bendtner expertly headed past Harper to quieten the home fans.
But Arsenal’s lead lasted barely a minute. Thirteen seconds after the re-start Gallas’s indecision let in Martins, who gleefully drove home to soften the memory of his penalty miss earlier in the game.
Arsenal would not be denied. On 64 minutes Van Persie played in Diaby, who smashed a shot past Harper and into the roof of the net to put the visitors ahead once more.
Soon after Van Persie did it again, this time sliding in Nasri, who beat Harper at the near post to put Arsenal 3-1 ahead and out of reach.
Newcastle looked shell-shocked. Chris Hughton’s side matched Arsenal for an hour, but in 10 dramatic minutes all three points had been ripped from their grasp.
There was still time for Martins to see a shot saved by Harper and for Diaby to crash a shot against the upright, but the game was effectively won with Nasri’s goal.