Leaders Arsenal held by rock-solid Newcastle
LONDON - Arsenal’s mounting Premier League title charge was checked as the leaders could find no way through third-placed Newcastle United in a disappointing 0-0 draw at The Emirates on Tuesday.
Mikel Arteta’s side have been relentless this season and a 15th league win from 17 games would have seen them open a 10-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.
But they had to make do with a point against a rock-solid Newcastle who defended superbly to remain unbeaten since August.
The closest the hosts came to breaking the deadlock was in the 87th minute when Newcastle keeper Nick Pope made a great save to keep out a low shot by Eddie Nketiah while Arsenal also had a vociferous late penalty claim waved away.
It is the first time Arsenal have not scored this season in all competitions and the first time they have dropped home points while Newcastle have now kept 10 clean sheets.
Eddie Howe’s visitors were content to sit deep for most of the evening and wait for chances from counter-attacks although Joelinton wasted a good opportunity before the break.
The draw was a fair result though, leaving Arsenal on 44 points from 17 games, eight ahead of Manchester City who have played a game less and nine in front of Newcastle and fourth-placed Manchester United.
Despite the frustration, Arteta said he was proud of his team, but furious that two penalties were not awarded to his side, the first when defender Dan Burn pulled the shirt of Gabriel at a corner and the second in stoppage time when the VAR ruled against a possible handball.
“We had two scandalous penalties (not given),” Arteta said. “They were two penalties, very simple.
“But I’m proud of the team. We generated a lot of situations but perhaps needed an extra touch, an extra pass to get clear chances. But I’m proud of this team.
“If you can’t win, you mustn’t lose.”
Arsenal flew out of the traps and pinned Newcastle back in the opening exchanges with wide men Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli both looking dangerous.
Martinelli’s cut back from the left caused panic in the visiting defence and the ball eventually fell to captain Martin Odegaard who blazed a shot over.
Saka then tested Pope but the keeper who has now kept six successive clean sheets in all competitions was equal to everything Arsenal could conjure in attack.
Joelinton headed Newcastle’s best chance wide in first-half stoppage time and the visitors began the second half on the front foot before retreating into their own half.
Nketiah looked like winning it late on but Pope made a great stop while in stoppage time Arteta was seething when a penalty was not given for handball after a cross by Granit Xhaka was blocked by Jacob Murphy, the ball clipping his arm.
Had it been given it would have been extremely harsh on Newcastle who showed again they can compete with the big boys.
“I think it was a very, very good defensive display and great mentality from the group,” Howe said.
“You saw good teamwork and a collective effort. I think Arsenal are very good and pose different problems so we knew defensively we needed to be rock solid.” - REUTERS