14 August 2005

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle

A bit of a rough win, but a win nonetheless.

Of course the red card to Jermaine Jenas was a key event. I'm not sure that a yellow wasn't more appropriate, but referee Steve Bennett saw what he saw. Perhaps he would have changed the call had he watched endless replays, as we can, but he lacks that luxury. In any event, it was a rash challenge, and Jenas can't hold himself blameless.

The sending off ended Newcastle's chances of winning the game, but I think it may have helped their chance to take any points at all. Certainly, for the next 50 minutes, they showed focus, defending with energy and organization. Arsenal had a few decent chances, but credit to the Toon defense and most notably Shay Given for keeping their net empty. But the Gunners held obscene amounts of posession, and the constant pressure began to wear on the defenders.

As the game ground on, an Arsenal goal seemed more and more likely. Their pressure was rewarded when the penalty came from N'Zogbia's late challenge on Ljungberg in the box. (And it was a clear penalty; there was no malice in the challenge, but it wasn't anywhere near the ball. Anyone who counts on getting away with that inside the box will be disappointed.) Given did well to get a hand to Henry's shot, but couldn't keep it from the goal. Of course, that forced Newcastle back into the attack, and so there was little surprise to see the second goal, with a nicely worked break from Ljungberg to Lauren to Ljungberg. Freddie worked all the way to the goal line, then found Van Persie, who slotted a neat shot between Given and the post.

So, three points. I would have liked to see a more potent attack from the Gunners. Much as in the Community Shield, there was a lot of threat in their attack, but not much shooting, like dark clouds that refuse to shed rain. They'll have to be more efficient against Chelsea next week. Of course, the Blues had a scare of their own, so neither team is in full form at this point. I suppose one shouldn't expect perfection in August. Even so, next Sunday's match at Stamford Bridge will have enormous consequence for the season, and any lack in sharpness will be more than compensated for by an abundance of commitment.

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