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Newcastle 0 - 4 Arsenal: match report

0 - 1 Krul (og) 45'
0 - 2 Walcott 53'
0 - 3 Bendtner 82'
0 - 4 Walcott 88'

Arsenal defeated Newcastle United today on a slippy pitch at St. James' Park to advance to the round of eight in the Carling Cup.  An own goal charged to Tim Krul, followed by a Theo Walcott chip, a Nicklas Bendtner long-range effort, and another Walcott goal topped off the win for the Gunners.

It was a game that Arsène Wenger looked set to win emphatically, a strong side put out on the pitch with Cesc Fabregas lurking on the bench.  And the Gunners indeed got the drop on Newcastle, Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner generating two quick chances from the opening whistle.  Arsenal ended up with eight shots in seven minutes, none of which found the net, though.

Newcastle got their feet on the ground after fifteen minutes.  Nile "Night" Ranger found his way clear on goal, Wojciech Szczesny beaten, only for the excellent Laurent Koscielny to cut him off and block his shot attempt.  It was a nervous moment for Arsenal, made a little more nervous from the ensuing corner kick which rebounded out to Alan Smith.  The former Leeds and Manchester United player let loose with a tremendous blast from 30 yards which Szczesny brushed onto the crossbar with his fingertips.  It was the first in what was to be a line of good saves all night from the Polish keeper.

The match rolled on into the northeastern evening, an evening which sadly was to end early for left back Kieran Gibbs, who appeared to injure his leg in a challenge on Wayne Routledge.  He attempted to play on, but it was clear he was not comfortable, and Wenger was forced to use Bacary Sagna.  Emmanuel Eboué shifted to left back in place of Gibbs, out of position, but the best option available, as Gael Clichy was rested on the evening.  Wenger could have opted for Havard Nordtveit at that stage instead of Sagna, but at 0-0, he seemed more inclined to go with experience against an increasingly pressing Newcastle side.

The rest of the half proceeded apace, Bendtner and Eboué both having shots, the former saved and the latter wide.  The breakthrough, though, would come from a bizarre set of circumstances.

Arsenal won a corner, which Theo Walcott sent in before it was momentarily cleared.  Tomas Rosicky nodded the ball back into the box, where Bendtner headed it towards goal.  It snuck under Toon keeper Tim Krul, Ryan Taylor headed it off the line, but off the back of Krul's head and in.  1-0 to the Arsenal and an own goal for Krul.  Halftime arrived.

The second half opened with a bright bit of play from Newcastle, but it would soon be 2-0 in abnormal and debatable fashion.  Walcott was played through on goal while Bendtner was about 25 yards offside, but while Walcott bore down on Krul, the Dane set more or less a wonderful pick by power forward standards, completely wiping out the Toon defender giving chase to Walcott.  Theo lifted the ball over Krul and home, no whistles, and Arsenal had increased their lead.

Now down by two, Chris Houghton threw on Jonas Gutierrez and Andy Carroll (and Joey Barton was soon to follow).  Wenger, in return, introduced Cesc Fabregas for the largely ineffective Carlos Vela.  Arsenal, whose first touch and passing had been slightly off for large stretches of the game, struggled a bit in the final third, but generally held possession well.  That possession was rewarded in the 82 minute as Nicklas Bendtner took matters into his own hands, and cutting in from the left, he rasped a lovely curling shot into the far top corner.  3-0 to Arsenal, and off he came for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

A few minutes later, Walcott found himself played through by a JET-redirected through ball from the back, and he coolly slotted his shot home below the onrushing Krul, and the Toon Army was well and truly defeated, although not before forcing a couple more fine saves from Szczesny, whose emphatic 40-yard punch was the final touch of the match.

Szczesny, for his part, hardly put a foot wrong all night, aside from the Ranger moment.  He made a number of really good saves and was sure in his handling and positioning.  Koscielny also had an excellent match start to finish, and once he warmed up a bit, so did Johan Djourou.  Sagna and Eboué, along with Denilson and Eastmond, worked hard as well, the latter a little shaky at times, but better in the second half.  Two games in a row without surrendering a goal does not seem to be anything to shout about for a team with aspirations for silver, but there does seem to be an increased defensive vigor about Arsenal these days.

Long may it continue, and on to West Ham at the Emirates this weekend.