Arsenal 2 (van Persie 15, Vermaelen 90+5′) – Newcastle United 1 (Ben Arfa 14)
Man of the Match – Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
The word that trended the highest among Arsenal fans, players, directors, coaching staff, everyone really was ‘momentum’. Momentum gathered from beating Tottenham, Liverpool and AC Milan. And the players did carry on that momentum with a last gasp win over our rivals for the 4th spot, Newcastle United.
Arsenal welcomed back Mikel Arteta, who was out after suffering a concussion at Anfield, while Chamberlain was chosen ahead of Ivorian winger Gervinho. Newcastle started with only one striker upfront, the Senegal international Demba Ba, who has chalked up 16 goals. Ryan Taylor pulled out with injury, and in his place came in Hatem Ben Arfa, once considered the future of French football. Also, in the starting lineup was Manchester United flop Gabriel Obertan.
The opening exchanges were end-to-end. Both teams started with some really good pace. It was Theo Walcott who raced ahead of Italian defender Davide Santon, but the Toon defence was up to the mark. Kieran Gibbs looked adventurous, and that left space behind him for Ben Arfa, who took a shot near the edge of the box, and it went below Szczesny into the net. It seemed like the customary goal Arsenal always concede.
Within no time, Arsenal found the equalizer, as Walcott beat Santon again, and van Persie outfoxed Mike Williamson completely to shoot past Tim Krul. The rest of the half was quite uneventful as Newcastle stuck to the task of frustrating the Gunners, and rarely ventured forward. The midfield battle between Alex Song and Cheik Tiote was particularly exciting, as both the African midfielders tried to get the better of each other.
Arsenal started the second half, creating more opportunities on goal. Tomas Rosicky, who signed a new two year contract, on Sunday, looked lively in midfield. His fantastic deft header was parried away by Tim Krul. Chamberlain was the next to have a go, but his volley went inches wide.
Tim Krul and Robin van Persie exchanged a few verbal volleys after the Dutch striker accused the Dutch goalie of wasting too much time on goalkicks.
The chance of the match fell to Rosicky, who was in acres of space, after some fine work by Walcott on the flanks. Rosicky’s effort was woeful, as he completely miscued the shot. Chamberlain, who seemed a quiet, was then rightly substituted with Gervinho. However, the Ivorian missed a great chance to regain his confidence, as he couldn’t react quickly enough to an Arteta free-kick.
Walcott had a late shot blocked, and Vermaelen’s header was again parried over by Krul, in extra-time, which was 5 minutes. Arsenal found the determination to win the game as they launched one last attack. Walcott’s cross was met by an onrushing Thomas Vermaelen, who poked the ball past Krul to set up a pulsating win and a vital 3 points.
The last minute goal sparked a minibrawl between Demba Ba, Tim Krul and Robin van Persie, which was eventually broken down by both sets of players. It signifies a resolve withing the team, to finish above Sp*rs, and atleast have a St. Totteringham’s day, if not a trophy. That aim seems to be within sights, as the Gunners now move within a point of 3rd place, and 3 points clear of 5th placed Chelsea.
This is also adds to Arsenal’s impressive of vital late goals, which includes Henry’s winner at Sunderland and van Persie’s fine effort against Liverpool.
Szczesny (7.5) – Should have dealt better with Ben Arfa’s shot. Had very little to do for the rest of the game.
Sagna (7.5) – Another fine display from Sagna. Gutierrez was never a threat.
Vermaelen (8) – A brilliant defensive display capped with a priceless winner.
Koscielny (7.5) – Pocketed Ba for majority of the game. Never allowed the Newcastle forward to get in his stride.
Gibbs (7.5) – Was adventurous through the night, but needs to improve his defending. Left lots of space behind him to allow Ben Arfa time and space.
Song (7.5) – The Cameroonian had a fine game too, and never allowed Obertan or Cabaye to flourish.
Rosicky (7.5) – Looked lively, but made hash of a great opportunity.
Arteta (7.5) – Seemed to slow down the game a bit at times, but was influential in patient Arsenal build-ups.
Chamberlain (7.5) – Not his best game, and was marshalled well by Newcastle’s defence.
Walcott (8.5) – Probably his best display of the season, so far. Showed plenty of space, and for once, looked like he possessed a footballing brain.
van Persie (8) – Was a bit secluded at times, even playing a bit deep at times. Collocini marked him well, but he scored a great equalizer, to take his tally to 33.
Ramsey (7.5) – Looked lively when he came on. The rest and the injury layoff seems to have done him a world of good. Looked sharp
Gervinho (7) – Lacked pace, that he is known for, and missed a great chance.
Overall Team Rating – 7.61