Matt Ritchie caps Newcastle comeback as Arsenal's struggles away from home continue
Premier League, St James' Park - Newcastle 2 (Perez 29', Ritchie 68') - Arsenal 1 (Lacazette 14')
Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie were on the scoresheet as Newcastle came from behind to beat Arsenal and virtually secure their Premier League status for another year.
Rafa Benitez’s side were hoping to take advantage of Arsenal’s exploits in Europe, with the Gunners only returning from Russia on Friday after sealing their place in the semi-final of the Europa League with a 6-3 aggregate victory over CSKA Moscow.
But the visitors made a lively start to the game as they took the lead after 14 minutes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, playing with Alexandre Lacazette for the first time since joining in January, crossed for the Frenchman who slotted in at the back post.
Newcastle United vs Arsenal - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - April 15, 2018 Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring their first goal with team matesReuters
Only two points short of reaching the magical total of 40 for the season, Newcastle responded in the perfect manner and found the equaliser in the 29th-minute when Perez side-footed DeAndre Yedlin's cross past Petr Cech at his near-post.
It was disappointing for Arsenal, who had enjoyed an impressive first-half display, but the visitors suffered another set-back as they fell behind in the 68th-minute when Ritchie profited from substitute Islam Slimani’s knock-down by slotting the winner past Cech.
Newcastle United vs Arsenal - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - April 15, 2018 Newcastle United's Ayoze Perez celebrates scoring their first goalReuters
Newcastle survived a couple of late scares to hold on for their first win over Arsene Wenger’s side for the first time in 13 years to give their manager the perfect birthday present. The win lifts them into 10th, 13 points clear of the drop zone with six games remaining.
Arsenal, still without a point away from home in the Premier League in 2018, remain sixth, just two points above seventh-placed Burnley.
Arsenal lose on their travels, again. With the top-four out of reach, the Europa League is obviously Arsene Wenger’s priority as Arsenal search for a way to make a return to the Champions League. That much is clear, given Wenger made six changes with a number of key players missing altogether, most notably Mesut Ozil. What will disappoint and frustrate Arsenal supporters is their side’s inability to defend: they shipped two cheap goals against CSKA Moscow on Thursday and another couple today. And of course their away form in the Premier League is increasingly worrying, having lost their last five on their travels. It doesn’t exactly build confidence ahead of the club's semi-final with La Liga’s Atletico Madrid, and any momentum gained from their European run is gradually being sapped away.
Newcastle United vs Arsenal - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - April 15, 2018 Arsenal's Rob Holding looks dejected after the matchReuters
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) - Spread the ball around extremely well, sparking numerous chances for his team and always wanted possession. Few players in England can move the ball with such accuracy and it begs the question: will he make it onto the plane for the World Cup?
Rafael Benitez, Manager of Newcastle United and Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle United shake hands after the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.Getty Images
Newcastle: Dubravka 7, Yedlin 7, Lascelles 7, Lejeune 7, Dummett 6, Ritchie 8, Diame 9, Shelvey 9, Kenedy 6, Perez 7, Gayle 7. Subs: Murphy N/A, Slimani 8, Joselu 5.
14’ - GOAL! Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal: Incredible vision by Mustafi who clips a pin-point pass to Aubameyang who controls beautifully and then crosses for his strike-partner Lacazette who slots in at the back post. Arsenal ahead, Newcastle conceding their first goal at home since January.
29’ – GOAL! Newcastle 1-1 Arsenal: Newcastle have won only once in the 15 games they have fallen behind this season, but Rafa's side have given themselves a fighting chance now, as they find the equaliser! It's another pinpoint pass from Shelvey which finds Gayle high up the pitch. He spreads the ball to Yedlin who delivers a lovely cross to Perez who fires a first-time volley beyond Cech at the near post.
68’ – GOAL! Newcastle 2-1 Arsenal: Ritchie, with his third goal in his last four home games, sends the home supporters wild! Slimani powers a header into the path of Ritchie who fires the ball past Cech on his weaker right-foot.
Matt Ritchie of Newcastle United celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.Getty Images
74’ - CROSSBAR! Lovely and effective link-up play from Slimani and Kenedy allows the latter through on goal and his shot is deflected onto the frame of goal by Mustafi. So close to Newcastle's third!
85’ - CHANCES! Arsenal work the ball to Monreal whose shot from point-blank range is blocked by Diame! The danger isn't over as Lacazette finds Iwobi who shoots wide from an acute angle. He ought to pull it back for a team mate there.
- Arsenal are exactly the same number of points from the bottom of the Premier League table (West Bromwich Albion: 21 points) as they are from the top of the table (Manchester City: 87 points).
- The Gunners have now lost 11 Premier League games this season; equalling their worst tally of league defeats in a season under Arsene Wenger (11 in 2005-06).
- Arsen Wenger's side have lost five successive league matches away from home for the first time since December 1984.
- Arsenal have now conceded 45 goals in their 33 Premier League matches this season; one more than in the whole of 2016-17 (44).
- Ayoze Pérez's goal ended a sequence of 11 passes by Newcastle United, involving nine of their 11 players - the longest sequence for one of their Premier League goals in 2017/18.
- Alexandre Lacazette's goal was the 100th that Arsenal have scored in all competitions this season; the fourth Premier League club to reach this landmark in 2017-18 (after Man City, Liverpool and Spurs).
- Alexandre Lacazette has scored 13 of these goals; three more than any other Arsenal player (Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck with 10 goals).
- The only Premier League season that they have conceded more goals under Arsene Wenger is 2011-12 (49).