Newcastle hit back to beat Arsenal


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said his side’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle was the “the story of our season”, as their terrible away league record continued.

Matt Ritchie scored Newcastle’s winner in the 68th minute, as they came back from 1-0 down to beat the Gunners and all but secure their Premier League future, passing the 40-point mark.

Arsenal, who reached the Europa League semi-finals with a 6-3 aggregate win over CSKA Moscow in Russia on Thursday, are the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to earn an away league point in 2018.

Wenger said his players “physically suffered” in the second half after a three-day turn around and the trip to Russia had been a “weight” on his team.

But his side were also hampered by defensive mistakes and bar the opening 30-minute spell, they lacked an attacking threat in the rest of the game.

“We didn’t put our chances to bed and made unbelievable mistakes,” Wenger told Match of the Day.

“It’s been the story of our season, 70% possession, 1-0, lots of chances, and then you wonder how you lose the game.

“But these players are quality and we need to forget about today and focus on the next game. We have to be realistic. We came out of it with no points and overall we thought we should have got three points.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, playing for the first time together, had linked up for Arsenal’s opener in the 14th minute.

The Gabon striker received Shkodran Mustafi’s chip and clipped the ball to the far post for the arriving Lacazette to slide in and score.

Ayoze Perez equalised just before the half-hour mark, running in past Shkodran Mustafi, to guide in DeAndre Yedlin’s cross at the near post.

Calum Chambers should have put Arsenal back in front towards the end of the half, but he pushed an attempt wide as he slid in to meet Mustafi’s header.

It took until the 67th minute for either side to have a shot in the second half, with Ritchie then getting the winner a minute later.

Nacho Monreal failed to clear the ball and substitute Islam Slimani’s header was flicked on by Perez into the path of Ritchie, who coolly steered his shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Kenedy almost made it three, his shot looping up and hitting the bar.

There were some nervy moments in the closing stages as Arsenal pressed for an equaliser, but Newcastle held on for a vital win, their fourth straight league victory.

It puts them on 41 points with five games remaining, 13 clear of relegation.

This was another dire away performance from Arsenal, for whom the only way to save their season will be by winning the Europa League to secure automatic Champions League qualification.

But they face a semi-final against Atletico Madrid, who are second in La Liga, and based on this display at St James’ Park, victory will be a tall order.

Arsene Wenger gave a Premier League debut to 18-year-old midfielder Joe Willock, while Hector Bellerin was not in the squad.

Despite resting a few players, Arsenal did field their two most expensive signings in a strikeforce with a combined value of £102.5m, as Lacazette partnered Aubameyang.

Early signs looked good, but they were let down by defensive mistakes, with a back four that was there for the taking.

The Gunners barely threatened after Newcastle went ahead, failing to register a shot on target in the final 45 minutes.

Defeat means they have now:

* Lost five successive away games in the league for the first time since December 1984.
* Lost 11 Premier League games this season; equalling their worst tally of league defeats in a season under Wenger (11 in 2005-06).
* Conceded 45 goals in the league this season – one more than in the whole of 2016-17 (44) – only in 2011-12 (49) have they conceded more under Wenger in a league campaign.
* They stay in sixth place on 54 points, 33 points behind leaders Manchester City (87 points) and the same number away from bottom club West Brom (21 points).

Speaking about their away record, Wenger said: “It’s a lot about the head and sometimes there is no rationality in it. It doesn’t make sense.”

The 40-point mark is the magic number supposedly needed to guarantee Premier League survival and the Magpies have now passed that.

Given the uncertainty over the club’s ownership and the lack of funds available to manager Rafael Benitez, Newcastle’s move towards survival is one of the stories of the league this season.

They have also ended a wretched run against Arsenal, having lost their previous 10 Premier League meetings with Wenger’s side.

“I think we are safe with 41 points,” said Benitez. “It’s a massive achievement for the players, the city and the fans. I want to congratulate everyone.

“Today we didn’t play amazing football because we played an amazing team but you have to manage how you play and compete for the win.”

After weathering Arsenal’s early attacking spell, the Magpies grew into the game and the excellent Jonjo Shelvey dictated play, while Perez was tireless in the lone striker role.

With the game petering out in the second half, the introduction of Slimani, making just his second appearance following his loan move from Leicester, lifted Newcastle and they were good value for the win.

Mohamed Diame was a rock in the centre of midfield, making crucial tackles and covering more than 11km, while captain Jamaal Lascelles made vital clearances as he repelled Arsenal’s limited attacks.


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