After a first-half in which Newcastle could have been down to 10 men and ended up playing with 12 men -- their customary 11 plus referee Lee Mason -- Arsenal scored three second half goals, with two of those coming in the game's most pivotal stretch, and sauntered away with a 4-1 win at the Emirates to close out Saturday's Premier League action.
The game's first goal -- and the only goal of the first half -- came on a 15th-minute goal off the meaty French forehead of Olivier Giroud, on a lovely cross from Alexis Sanchez, finishing a break that started with a Hector Bellerin tackle. And there could have been more -- much more -- if not for referee Lee Mason, who was, in a word, terrible, and in three words, terrible to Arsenal.
Evidence: In the game's sixth minute, Chiek Tiote karate-kicked Alexis in the chest, a red-card-level foul that Mason missed entirely, or ignored. Later in the first half, Danny Welbeck was on his way to scoring a goal, grazed Daryl Janmaat's arm with his hand, and was called for a foul as the ball sailed into the net. Later, Alexis was shoved inside the penalty area by an overmatched Paul Dummett, and Mason awarded Arsenal a free kick three yards outside the box. I could go on, but I'll let this tweet from the ever-awesome Barney Ronay speak for me:
Really enjoying watching this new Saturday evening Lee Mason vehicle (with background football)— Barney Ronay (@barneyronay) December 13, 2014
The second half was better. In the 55th minute Alexis set up the second Arsenal goal, on an adorable dink pass that led Santi Cazorla into a stumbling, drunk-person run past Fabricio Coloccini toward the touchline, followed by a sublime shot from a challenging angle that fluffed the happy part of the side netting. Newcastle answered with a double sub, taking off Sammy Ameobi and Pappis Cisse for Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, Lee Mason answered by giving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a harsh yellow card, and Arsenal answered with Olivier Giroud's second goal, coming on a beautiful play in which Ox found Bellerin on an outlet pass to the right flank, allowing Bellerin to chip a pass to a just-onside Giroud. Giroud tapped it in from two yards away.
Tiote finally got a yellow card in the 59th minute for sliding into Ox's ankles from behind in clear sight of everyone, but the resulting free kick did nothing. Newcastle got its own free kick four minutes later, and Ginger Ninja Jack Colback sent a ball into Ayoze Perez, who was watched with admiration by Bellerin and Mathieu Debuchy as he headed the ball in to get the Toons on the scoreboard.
But then the Arsenal onslaught continued with a Cazorla near-goal, a Mathieu Flamini near-goal, and a Kieran Gibbs near-goal on a ridiculous pinball sequence in front of the Newcastle net. In the 73rd minute, Lukas Podolski came on for Giroud to join the party. Danny Welbeck had a great chance for a goal in the 78th minute on a 2 on 1 break, but Welbeck stayed so close to Alexis that Coloccini was able to defend both of them simultaneously.
In the 87th minute, Alexis came off for ... the just-recalled-from-loan Francis Coquelin! (Which made good on Arsene Wenger's press-conference admission yesterday that Coquelin could be involved.) The good mojo paid off instantly, with Welbz winning a penalty kick on a Dummett tackle that looked a lot like the one in the first half that didn't earn a penalty, and Santi Cazorla Pirlo'd the penalty kick quite cheekily to make it 4-1.
And, in the most hyphenated substitution of the day, Ainsley Maitland-Niles came on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to cameo for three minutes of injury time.
Parquet Courts, play us out: