Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Arsenal vs. Newcastle: Match Review

Arsenal will be at the top of the Premier League for at least 24 hours after defeating Newcastle United 3-0 for the second successive time in only four days. The Gunners, who also beat Newcastle 3-0 in the FA Cup on Saturday, are now three points ahead of Manchester United, who face Portsmouth at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Arsenal went ahead in the 40th minute when Emmanuel Adebayor scored his 9th goal in 7 games to go within one goal of Cristiano Ronaldo's total of 17. Mathieu Flamini bagged Arsenal's second with a fabulous strike from 25 yards out and Cesc Fabregas put the game beyond doubt with a goal in the 80th.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Gael Clichy, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Bacary Sagna; Abou Diaby, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo

Newcastle: Shay Given; Claudio Cacapa, Stephen Carr, Steven Taylor, David Rozenhal; Nicky Butt, James Milner, Charles N'Zogbia, Damien Duff; Michael Owen, Alan Smith

Arsenal were in control right from the start and almost got an early lead when a quick exchange between Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas was halted on the edge of the penalty box by a fine tackle from Steven Taylor.

In the 17th minute Arsenal had another great chance when Abou Diaby got his head to a cross from Alex Hleb. Unfortunately for Arsenal fans, Diaby was put off just enough by a challenge from Nicky Butt, and his diving header went far off the mark.

Shay Given nearly scored an own goal a few minutes later as Adebayor pressured the keeper into a cheeky backheel from only a few yards in front of his own goal. Kevin Keegan was irate, but Given got away with it, controlling the ball well enough to give away a corner rather than a goal.

Arsenal finally got on the scoreboard in the 40th minute when Adebayor got his head onto a cross from Mathieu Flamini. The perfectly weighted cross was turned into the net by the prolific Togolese striker, as déjà vu began to hit the Newcastle fans.

The goal ensured that Arsenal went into halftime with a lead, and Kevin Keegan's side seemed well-beaten after having only managed one shot on goal in the first half.

Newcastle came out far stronger in the second half though, refusing to die down despite being a goal behind at the Emirates. Good work up the flanks was undone by a failure to find the correct final pass, and all of Newcastle's early possession in the second half barely even won the Magpies a shot on goal.

Given was tested again in the 66th minute when he showed fine reactions to get down to the ground and save a low drive from Flamini.

A few minutes later, Nicklas Bendtner came on for Eduardo, pairing the young Dane with Adebayor for the first time since their argument at White Heart Lane. There was no conflict between the two players though, as the bust-up seems to have been worked out.

A strong performance by Flamini was rewarded only minutes after the substitution when the Frenchman released an incredible drive from 25 yards out to double Arsenal's lead. The 72nd minute strike was even better than Flamini's cross for the first goal, and cemented the 23 year-old as the man of the match.

Cesc Fabregas provided a third for Arsenal after reaching a centering pass from Nicklas Bendtner. The midfield maestro looks to be getting back into the form that he showed in the beginning of the season.

Newcastle almost got a late consolation goal when Nicky Butt crashed a free-kick onto Almunia's crossbar, but the game was already lost for the Magpies as Arsenal hit the top of the Premiership.