Pre-match buildup was overshadowed by the untimely injury of Theo Walcott, who had shown in his previous 2 games that his speed and penetration was sorely missed.
Initial fears were that his cartilage had been injured and facing a prospect of being out till May.
Fortunately Arsene released far better news before kickoff.

Now, back to the match.

After the heroics of FA Cup in the midweek, numerous changes were made to the starting lineup.
Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Song, Vela and Walcott were all replaced by Almunia, Toure, Denilson, Clichy Bendtner and Nasri.

It was a game of high stakes for both teams, Newcastle desperate to avoid defeat and relegation, Arsenal to close the gap after the results of Manure and Chelski provided the platform.

The opening minutes were tentative to say the least, both teams probing each other, trying to find a way through. As early as the 20th minute, Duff went down in the box under pressure from Nasri, referee wasn’t impressed with his lack of diving skills and waved off the claims.

Midway through the half, Newcastle did get the penalty they wanted. Almunia dropped a cross in the box and in the process of retrieving it, was judged to have fouled Ryan Taylor. Up stepped Martins to draw first blood. Amazingly, Almunia guessed correctly and comfortably saved a weakly taken penalty.

Bendtner and Van Persie were combining well at the other end of the pitch, teeing up Arshavin for a shot in the box, which was blocked by a last ditch tackle from Steve Taylor, whom was lucky to be still in the game after shoving his forearm into the face to Arshavin while tustling for a ball.

The half ended all square, but the signs are showing that the real Arsenal is awakening.

2nd half started with Arsenal upping the tempo further, trying to carve out chances. But the defence is well marshaled by Taylor and Bassong.

The opener finally came at the 57th minute. An Arshavin freekick was floated into the box and Bendtner rose highest to flick the ball past Harper and into the net. By now, Bassong has already been taken off due to injury and Taylor was on the sidelines getting treatment for an ankle problem.

Within a minute, Newcastle were level. A hopeful ball from kickoff saw Martins control the ball at the edge of the box. Gallas was quickly on hand to cut off the attack. In the process of clearing the ball, Gallas whacked it straight at an outstretched leg of Martins.
The ball fell kindly for Martins and he instinctively stabbed the ball home with his left foot. Almunia had no chance at all. 1 – 1.

One might fear the effect this would have on a young team, but it seems the team have matured much more than some might expect.

Not letting the setback peg them back, Arsenal kept probing for a way through, and Diaby duly obliged with a goal in the 64th minute, combining well with Van Persie to fire a shot home in the box. 1 – 2 to the visitors. By now, Taylor and Bassong, arguably the 2 best defenders of the day, have been withdrawn due to injury.

The finishing blow finally came in the 67th minute when Van Persie once again laid the ball on, this time for Nasri to bring it into the box and beat Harper with a low shot at his near post. 1 – 3, game over.

With the earlier losses of both Manure and Chelski, now close the gap to 6 points and claim a 3 point lead over Villa, who play Liverpool the next day.

Happy days returning? Why not?

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