Monday 12 March 2012 8pm

Arsenal 2
Newcastle United 1 (Ben Arfa 14)

A relatively comfortable first half for Newcastle despite Arsenal having the lion’s share of possession.

When the teams were announced,  the surprise was to see Cissé on the bench with Ben Arfa coming into a 4-4-1-1 system and Obertan taking advantage of the injury to Ryan Taylor.

The second surprise though was to see Obertan floating about behind Ba with Hatem Ben Arfa wide right.

Fourteen minutes on the clock and the move had paid dividends as Ben Arfa cut in from the right and put a lovely hard low shot just inside the Arsenal keeper’s near post from the edge of the box.

An ‘unfortunate’ pre-rehearsed goal celebration was followed by slack defending as only some 5o seconds later Van Persie equalised. Santon got sucked upfield and when Walcott’s low cross was aimed towards Van Persie and Williamson you feared the worst. Great skill by the Dutch striker as he totally outwitted Williamson but realkly the defender should have done better.

United got through the rest of the half with few real scares and indeed got some good possession in decent places at times.

Obertan was lucky to stay on as Santon made way for Perch, obviously Pardew not too happy with how the Italian defender was handling Walcott although apart from the equaliser I didn’t think Santon had done too much wrong.

Half the second half was played to a background of boos as Van Persie wound the crowd up over Krul allegedly taking too long with his kicks, even though much of the time this was in open play. It is only when you actually play Arsenal that you remember how much you hate them for the way they players and manager go on.

Krul was giving Van Persie as good as he got and that extended to the actual play as well, even though it was mainly crosses and half chances the Dutch keeper was dealing with, rather than great chances.

Pardew at last had enough of Obertan who had been absolutely shocking and Shola came on for the last half hour. Ameobi actually did really well as at last we managed to keep hold of the ball a bit more up the other end instead of it just coming back every time.

Even though the lads spent most of that second half in our patch they rarely looked like taking us apart. Williamson recovered to clear header after header with Coloccini and Simpson putting in good shifts, while Perch got skinned a few times by Walcott but did ok.

In fact once Obertan went the distance the whole team worked tirelessly including Ben Arfa, with Tiote and Cabaye back to something like their best.

United’s fair play almost caught them out as having earlier stopped play a few yards outside the Arsenal box so one of their players could get treatment, they almost paid the price as later Rosicky missed a sitter with the Gunners refusing to put the ball out despite Tiote flat out.

It was only really the last ten minutes when  things got a bit hairy but the team looked resilient as a final change saw Guthrie on for a now struggling Tiote.

The board came up showing five extra minutes which looked a bit on the generous side and Newcastle actually got some numbers up the pitch with two minutes left but then seemed to be stuck between getting the ball in the box and taking it in the corner. They did neither and lost possession with their opponents breaking quickly, Simpson one of the players struggling to recover.

A cross from the right saw a scramble and Vermaelen at the back post capitalised after gambling on one last run from centre-half, just beating Krul to the loose ball.

Yes they were caught out in that last minute but I find it hard to criticise after the shift they put in.

It was left to Van Persie to sum up Arsenal as he taunted Krul after the winning goal, argy bargy was followed by yellow cards for both and the final whistle soon after.

Dreams of fourth now all but extinguished but it is all about getting on with the next match and getting three points off Norwich then look and see where we are then.

Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Song, Mikel Arteta, Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky (Aaron Ramsey 76), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Gervinho 68), Robin Van Persie (c)

Subs not used: Lukasz Fabianski, Andre Santos, Johan Djourou, Yossi Benayoun, Marouane Chamakh

Newcastle United : Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon (James Perch 46); Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote (Danny Guthrie 81), Yohan Cabaye,Jonas Gutierrez; Gabriel Obertan (Shola Ameobi 61); Demba Ba

Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Dan Gosling, Haris Vuckic, Papiss Cisse

Referee: Howard Webb

Attendance: 60,095