Newcastle beat Arsenal to seal Premier League safety

Matt Ritchie scored Newscastle's winner against Arsenal at St James Park
Matt Ritchie scored Newscastle’s winner against Arsenal at St James Park

Newcastle defeated Arsenal for the first time in 13 years as they won their fourth consecutive game and sealed Premier League safety at St James Park.

Arsenal had taken the lead through French striker Alexandre Lacazette who scored from a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cross but the Gunners lead didn’t last for long.

Perez Ayoze scored a sublime goal to draw Newcastle level before Matt Ritchie scored the winner to give Rafael Benitez to 40 points needed to stay in the Premier League.

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Arsenal, who reached the Europa League semi-finals with a 6-3 aggregate win over CSKA Moscow in Russia on Thursday, are the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to earn an away league point in 2018.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, playing for the first time together, had linked up for Arsenal’s opener in the 14th minute.

The Gabon striker received Shkodran Mustafi’s chip and clipped the ball to the far post for the arriving Lacazette to slide in and score.

Ayoze Perez equalised just before the half-hour mark, running in past Shkodran Mustafi, to guide in DeAndre Yedlin’s cross at the near post.

Calum Chambers should have put Arsenal back in front towards the end of the half, but he pushed an attempt wide as he slid in to meet Mustafi’s header.

It took until the 67th minute for either side to have a shot in the second half, with Ritchie then getting the winner a minute later.

Nacho Monreal failed to clear the ball and substitute Islam Slimani’s header was flicked on by Perez into the path of Ritchie, who coolly steered his shot past Petr Cech.

Kenedy almost made it three, his shot looping up and hitting the bar.

There were some nervy moments in the closing stages as Arsenal pressed for an equaliser, but Newcastle held on for a vital win.

Arsenal’s away-day blues

This was another dire away performance from Arsenal, for whom the only way to save their season will be by winning the Europa League to secure automatic Champions League qualification.

But they face a semi-final against Atletico Madrid, who are second in La Liga, and based on this display at St James’ Park, victory will be a tall order.

Arsene Wenger gave a Premier League debut to 18-year-old midfielder Joe Willock, while Hector Bellerin was not in the squad.

Despite resting a few players, Arsenal did field their two most expensive signings in a strikeforce with a combined value of £102.5m, as Lacazette partnered Aubameyang.

Early signs looked good, but they were let down by defensive mistakes, with a back four that was there for the taking.

The Gunners barely threatened after Newcastle went ahead, failing to register a shot on target in the final 45 minutes.

Defeat means they have now:

  • Lost five successive away games in the league for the first time since December 1984.
  • Lost 11 Premier League games this season; equalling their worst tally of league defeats in a season under Wenger (11 in 2005-06).
  • Conceded 45 goals in the league this season – one more than in the whole of 2016-17 (44) – only in 2011-12 (49) have they conceded more under Wenger in a league campaign.

They stay in sixth place on 54 points, 33 points behind leaders Manchester City (87 points) and the same number away from bottom club West Brom (21 points).

Speaking about their away record, Wenger said: “It’s a lot about the head and sometimes there is no rationality in it. It doesn’t make sense.”

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