Arsenal secured their place in next season's UEFA Champions League with a tense win over Newcastle on Sunday.Laurent Koscielny proved to be the hero for Arsenal as he fired acrobatically past Steve Harper from close range after latching on to the end of a Theo Walcott free-kick to book the Emirates Stadium outfit's place in Europe's top club competition next term.
That proved to be enough for the Gunners as they held off a
spirited fightback from the hosts to claim the points.
Newcastle made two changes from the team that secured
safety against QPR last weekend, with Steven Taylor coming in for Mike
Williamson and goalkeeper Steve Harper making his final appearance for the club
in place of the suspended Rob Elliot.
Arsene Wenger's side remained unchanged
following their win over Wigan, but Olivier Giroud returned to the squad
The London outfit made the better start to the
game, but it was the hosts who had the first clear chance, Papiss Cisse firing
over after latching on to a low cross from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Arsenal had their first opportunity as Koscielny headed wide from a corner at the near post.
Newcastle displayed good spirit, and the
visitors' dominance soon faded, as Cisse and Yoan Gouffran both squandered
Wenger's men suffered a blow midway through the
first half when Mikel Arteta was forced off with a calf problem to be replaced
by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The contest developed into something of a war of
attrition thereafter, with both sides enjoying spells of possession without
creating any real goalscoring opportunities before the interval.
Arsenal, though, could have been ahead just a
minute into the second period, Harper making a strong save from Walcott
after Newcastle had carelessly given the ball away in their own half.
That chance proved to be a pointer to Arsenal's opener, as
Koscielny latched on to Lukas Podolski's flick-on from Walcott's right-wing
free-kick after 52 minutes to volley home.
Pardew's charges were not deterred by falling
behind and continued to create chances, with Gouffran going closest as he failed to
connect with a near-post ball from Mathieu Debuchy before Hatem Ben Arfa fired
wide from distance.
Arsenal were able to hold on without much difficulty for the remainder of the second half, but they should have added a second when Walcott broke free to hit the post late on - with the ball rebounding safely back into Harper's grasp.
Ultimately, that miss proved inconsequential though, as Wenger's men held on to continue the French manager's streak of ensuring UEFA Champions League football in every year of his tenure.
|10||H. Ben Arfa|
|Coach: A. Pardew|
for Y. Cabaye 57'
for Y. Gouffran 65'
for M. Yanga-Mbiwa 80'
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