Arsenal seal top-four finish
Arsenal secured fourth spot in the Premier League with a 1-0 win
over Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
After a goalless first half, which mirrored what was happening
at White Hart Lane between Tottenham and Sunderland, it took
Arsenal less than ten minutes into the second half to claim the
winner which guaranteed their top-four finish ahead of their
Newcastle failed to deal with a Theo Walcott free-kick, and it
fell for Laurent Koscielny just six yards out and he volleyed home
with great aplomb.
That goal was enough to mean that the result in north London was
meaningless, although Tottenham did do their part as Gareth Bale
fired home to win it for them but Arsenal did their job to claim a
top-four finish by just one point.
Arsene Wenger’s side were clearly a bit nervy from the start,
more concerned with not conceding rather than scoring, although the
first opening came for Walcott when he fired over six minutes
But with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley willing to share out
?1million between the club’s non-football staff if they won, the
home side did have something to play for, and Papiss Cisse came
close to converting a cross from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who was playing
as a makeshift left-back, but it flew just over.
Arsenal’s gamble of playing Mikel Arteta did not work as he was
forced off on the half-hour with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming on,
and they took time to adapt to the change.
Newcastle did have glimpses of goal with Yohan Cabaye testing
Wojciech Szczesny before Hatem Ben Arfa blazed over the bar when he
should have done better after finding room in the box.
One of the highlights of the first half was just before the
break on 37 minutes when Newcastle’s home fans gave a minute’s
applause to their number 37 – the retiring Steve Harper.
But he almost had a moment to forget just 30 seconds into the
second half. His poor clearance presented Walcott with a good
chance, but the veteran shot-stopper saved well and Steven Taylor
got back to clear.
On 52 minutes a Walcott free-kick was not dealt with and it
dropped to Koscielny off Yanga-Mbiwa and the Arsenal centre-half
volleyed past Harper from close range to send the travelling fans
To their credit Newcastle did not just cave in and they pushed
on looking for an equaliser but Koscielny and Per Mertesacker stood
firm at the heart of Arsenal’s defence. Both were on hand to put a
block on Yoan Gouffran inside the six-yard box, whilst Ben Arfa
fired one just wide from long range.
The late goal at Tottenham made for a nerve-jangling finish,
although it was Arsenal who should have doubled their lead as
Walcott broke clear in the final minute, and he beat Harper but his
shot cannoned back off the post.
But, despite their efforts Newcastle could not find a way
through as Arsenal claimed the win which means the Magpies finish a
lowly 16th, whilst the Gunners take their place at Europe’s top
table once again as their qualification for next season’s Champions
League was confirmed.