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Instant Reaction! Arsenal 1, Newcastle 0

In a slugfest at St. James' Park, Arsenal won by a nose (Olivier Giroud's specifically) over the Toons to claim top of the table status at the season's halfway mark.

Giroud's back on the scoresheet!
Giroud's back on the scoresheet!
Michael Regan

Every win is pretty, no matter how ugly it actually plays out on the pitch. But today's 1-0 win at St. James' Park in Newcastle was particularly grindy. Arsenal and Newcastle combined for 22 shots and 18 fouls in a match that ultimately came down to two plays -- Wojciech Szczesny's acrobatic save in the dying moments in the first half, preventing an on-target shot from Moussa Sissoko from fluffing the net, and Olivier Giroud's soft-but-effective header (noser?) off a Theo Walcott free kick in the 65th minute.

Arsenal almost added an insurance goal four minutes later -- Jack Wilshere's through ball to Walcott led to a dangerous double attempt that called for goal-line technology, followed by a Giroud mishit and relief and hope for the home crowd. The last 20 minutes was a park-the-bus affair that drug on like a Hobbit movie, but Arsenal hung on for the win, despite Szczesny almost giving up a comical goal when his attempted clearance of a sketchy back-pass bounced off Loic Remy's face and went just wide of his own post.

The match was otherwise remarkable for Cheik Tiote's rampant mugging of numerous Arsenal players, and referee Lee Probert responding by handing out yellows to three Arsenal players (Giroud, Flamini, Rosicky) and nothing to any of the Foot-Locker-attired squad. Seems fair.