Newcastle produce a stunning comeback to dent our title hopes.
Theo Walcott’s opener after 44 seconds was followed in quick succession by goals from Johan Djourou and RVP, giving the Gunners a 3-0 lead just 10 minutes into the game. Van Persie then netted his 10th goal of the season, midway through the first half, to give us a well-deserved four goal cushion.
I would imagine that, like me, most Arsenal fans were hoping for an annihilation in the second half. Newcastle were without their top scorers Andy Carroll and Shola Ameobi, and had barely threatened our defence during the first half. It seemed as if the game had already finished, and it was just a matter of how many goals the away team would score. Some Newcastle fans had even left the stadium when our Dutchman netted his second goal.
At the beginning of the second half, Johan Djourou limped off the pitch and was replaced by Squillaci. Only minutes later, Abou Diaby was given a straight red for throwing Joey Barton onto the floor and pushing Kevin Nolan. I wasn’t that bothered and actually found it quite funny. We were winning by a huge margin, and Joey Barton probably deserved it – I’m not that fond of him. Little did I know, the sending off would have a significant effect on our second half performance.
Spurred on by playing against 10 men, Newcastle started to put pressure on our two centre-backs. Our team played with their heads down and showed nowhere near the level of attacking flair that we had seen at the beginning of the match.
After a goal was disallowed for offside, it was only a matter of time before Newcastle would score one that counted. With twenty-five minutes left, Barton stepped up to the penalty spot and sent Scezesny the wrong way, after Koscielny’s tussle with Leon Best, although the spot-kick could be deemed to be quite harsh. Kevin Nolan then had an altercation with Szczesny, grabbing our keeper by the neck for holding the ball for five seconds. If Diaby deserved a red card, then Nolan was certainly worthy of the same punishment, but the referee decided to give Szczesny a yellow card for holding onto the ball. Odd.
Best then put his name on the score sheet, capitalising from poor defending in the box by Gael Clichy. After failing to win a header, our left back was found wanting, and Best toe-poked the ball into the goal. Barton brought the game to 3-4 with another penalty. This penalty was terribly controversial; Koscielny was judged to have fouled Williamson as they both jumped to head the ball. I don’t actually know why the linesman gave a spot-kick – it was a fairly-contested header. This ridiculous penalty decision gave Newcastle the confidence they needed to get the equalising goal. That isn’t to say that they didn’t play well – their second half performance was impressive – but I highly doubt they would’ve got a point had that penalty not been given.
However, it is important to note that Best had another goal ruled out for offside, when Rosicky was clearing keeping him in an onside position.
No team has ever come from four goals down to gain even a point in the Premier League. The final goal came from a free kick, again slightly controversial, as Barton seemed to simply fall onto Rosicky, but the foul was given against us. We failed to clear the free kick, and the ball fell to Tiote, who smashed a brilliant long-range shot past Szczesny to bring the game level. The Newcastle fans that left at half-time missed the greatest comeback in Premier League history.
If Manchester United were to win their game against Wolves in the late kickoff, we would have been hard-pushed to mount a successful title challenge. 7 points is a big gap at the top of the table, especially as we are entering the last phase of the season. However, United were unable to capitalise on our draw. Bottom-of-the-table Wolves put in a tremendous performance and ended United’s unbeaten run.
We now sit only 4 points behind the league leaders, who face Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in 3 of their next 5 games. Despite our best efforts to throw it away, we still remain very much in the hunt for the Championship.
1) Ridiculous reports from the French media emerged early yesterday afternoon which claimed that Interpol were investigating “suspicious money transfers” involving referee Phil Dowd and an Arsenal midfielder, thought to be Tomas Rosicky, due to “a strong prevailing climate of suspicion around the game.” Interpol were supposedly looking into the possibility of match-fixing.
Some conspiracy theorists believed that there had to be a reason for the team throwing away a 4-goal lead, claiming that Rosicky was at fault (at least partially) for 3 of the 4 goals, and that Phil Dowd gave two very soft penalties. However, an Interpol spokeswoman denied their involvement in investigating the game:
“Interpol is not aware of any request for assistance and any investigation would be conducted by national authorities. Interpol’s general secretary has not been asked to provide any assistance in relation to this matter.”
2) Other reports from Switzerland suggest that Johan Djourou has suffered damage to his knee cartilage. He could be out for a while, but it is currently unclear how long it will take for his injury to clear.