Terrific Toon stun Gunners at Emirates

The England Under-21 striker, tipped to feature in the senior squad

for the friendly with France later this month, had started the day

on the front pages following allegations about his private life.

However, under the close eye of watching England boss Fabio

Capello, the Newcastle number nine headed in what proved to be the

winner at the end of the first half. Although Arsenal twice hit the

woodwork through Cesc Fabregas’ deflected free-kick and Theo

Walcott, the Gunners were well below par and their miserable

afternoon was compounded by the dismissal of centre-back Laurent

Koscielny in stoppage time for a professional foul. Gunners boss

Arsene Wenger had also found his personal life under the media

spotlight ahead of this fixture. Nevertheless, the French coach

will have expected nothing but 100% focus from his team, whom he

felt were complacent when throwing away an early lead in their

midweek European tie. After an initial spell of pressure from

Newcastle, Arsenal slowly saw built momentum. Walcott chased a long

pass upfield which was smothered by keeper Tim Krul, before

Marouane Chamakh just failed to collect Alex Song’s pass at the

edge of a crowded penalty area. Newcastle had been thumped 4-0 by

Arsenal in the Carling Cup clash at St James Park a fortnight ago,

but went into this game buoyed by their thrashing of local rivals

Sunderland. Arsenal – looking to keep the pressure on leaders

Chelsea, who play at Liverpool later this afternoon – almost took

the lead on 11 minutes when Fabregas’ deflected 22-yard free-kick

crashed against the crossbar after ricocheting off the wall. The

Gunners captain was then played into the right side of the penalty

area, but was quickly crowded out before Walcott’s chip across the

six-yard box was headed behind. Arsenal, though, were left

frustrated as Newcastle broke up play well, and were awarded a few

free-kicks which were delivered direct into the penalty area. The

atmosphere went a bit flat as half-time approached, with Arsenal

not really able to get near their usual fluidity. When Fabregas was

slipped in down the right by Samir Nasri, his shot at the near post

was blocked into the sidenetting as the home fans continued to grow

restless. The Emirates Stadium, though, almost erupted when Nasri’s

drive appeared to be heading for the top corner – only for Krul to

pull-off a fine one-handed save. Newcastle took a shock lead on the

stroke of half-time when a deep free-kick into the Arsenal box from

Joey Barton was met by Carroll, who got there ahead of Lukasz

Fabianski to nod the visitors in front. At the start of the second

half, Arsenal hit the woodwork again when Walcott darted into the

right side of the area from Jack Wilshere’s pass and lashed in an

angled drive, which crashed against the underside of the bar with

Krul beaten. Arsenal continued to press, with Song cutting the ball

back across the six-yard box, but Chamakh was unable to connect.

With 35 minutes left, Wenger made a change when he sent on Andrey

Arshavin to replace Nasri and then introduced Robin van Persie for

the Dutchman’s first appearance since the end of August after an

ankle injury. Van Persie’s first touch was a lovely backheel down

the left, with Gael Clichy then delivering a low cross which was

just too far ahead of Arshavin. Newcastle, though, continued to

show little regard for reputation as they looked to hold possession

in a match which started to become somewhat scrappy as Wilshere was

left in a heap following a challenge from Barton, but the referee

took no action before defender Mike Williamson send a header wide

from a corner. Wenger’s last throw of the dice came with 17 minutes

left when Nicklas Bendtner replaced Wilshere. Arshavin almost

weaved his way clear, but Fabricio Coloccini made a saving tackle

in the six-yard box. Arsenal had pace in abundance up front now,

but Newcastle continued to hold their ground. Fabregas’ diving

header was straight at the keeper following Arshavin’s run as

Wenger looked to the heavens. Arsenal threw long balls forwards,

but Newcastle were not to be denied a shock victory as the hosts

finished with 10 men after centre-half Koscielny was shown a

straight red card for hauling down substitute Nile Ranger.