Dec 29, 2013, 10:27 AM EDT
Arsenal weathered q fury at St. James Park as Olivier Giroud nodded in a 64th minute free kick in with his head to send Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League table.
With Manchester City having taken a two-point lead the day before, Arsene Wenger played a possession game and forced Newcastle onto the counter.
The visitors asked the early questions of the Newcastle defense, but the back line held strong early on with some quality tackles in the box.
As Newcastle settled in, the match opened up into an end-to-end affair but nothing substantial resulted inside the first half-hour.
Arsenal, often so good in the counter, played a possession game in the first half, forcing the home side to get their opportunities on the break.
An awkward moment surrounded Olivier Giroud in the 35th minute as he put in a nasty challenge on Cheick Tiote – a sentence usually reserved for the other way around – before rolling around on the ground in an attempt to play it off. He received a yellow card for his efforts despite the theatrics.
As Newcastle pressed on the counter and challenged Arsenal’s possession, the visitors were pegged onto the back foot late in the first half.
Referee Lee Probert was called into question when it appeared Loic Remy was possibly taken down on the edge of the box near the 40th minute but it was waved off by the official.
Newcastle had their best chance of the first half on the counter in stoppage time as a blocked shot fell to Moussa Sissoko who fizzed an attempt from distance towards the top of goal but Wojciech Szczesny dove and tipped over.
The home side began where they left off in the second half, coming close seven minutes after the break but Szczesny and company managed to clear with Remy and Younes Gouffran lurking.
With Arsenal finally building back possession, they finally built the advantage they’d been looking for. Tiote caught Santi Cazorla and sent him to ground on the ball, giving the Gunners a free kick in a central location.
Cazorla took the set-piece himself, and Olivier Giroud latched onto it with his head, beating Davide Santon in the air to touch past Krul for the away lead on 65 minutes.
They nearly doubled their lead just four minutes later as Wilshere sprung Theo Walcott through, but Mathieu Debuchy did well to press the winger and his first touch was saved by Tim Krul. Walcott attempted a chip on the rebound, but Debuchy rescued again by clearing off the line with a header.
Newcastle continued to charge forward looking to break the clean sheet, even sending Krul forward for a pair of corners in stoppage time, but they could not break through.
Arsenal return to the Premier League table’s pole position by a point over City, with Newcastle remaining in seventh two points ahead of Tottenham who play after.
Arsenal – Giroud 64′
Newcastle – Krul; Debuchy, Coloccini, Williamson, Santon; Anita (Shola Ameobi 74′), Tiote, Cabaye; Sissoko (Haidara 79′), Remy, Gouffran (Ben Arfa 62′).
Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs (Arteta 71′); Flamini, Rosicky, Wilshere, Walcott (Jenkinson 80′), Cazorla; Giroud (Bendtner 86′).
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