Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Debut despair for Gervinho

Gervinho

Gervinho's Arsenal debut ended in ignominy as he was sent off for slapping Joey Barton in a hard-fought goalless draw at Newcastle.

The Ivory Coast international was dismissed with 14 minutes remaining of the Barclays Premier League encounter after lashing out at the midfielder when he confronted him over what he believed was a dive inside the home penalty area.

Gervinho's premature departure capped a disappointing evening on Tyneside for the Gunners as they were unable to break down a Magpies side which rarely looked like taking all three points, but was in no mood to surrender the one with which they started.

Tomas Rosicky steered an early shot wide of the Tim Krul's far post, but despite all the pressure, his only anxious moment came 14 minutes before the break when he spilled the Czech Republic international's corner under Laurent Koscielny's challenge and Danny Simpson had to clear off the line.

Opposite number Wojciech Szczesny was similarly under-employed as strikers Shola Ameobi and Demba Ba saw too little of the ball to cause any damage. He got down well to collect Simpson's deflected 17th-minute cross and Jonas Gutierrez smashed a 22nd-minute volley well wide, but the Gunners' goal rarely came under any real threat in the first half.

The visitors came close to breaking the deadlock with 55 minutes gone. Gutierrez was penalised for a challenge on Rosicky wide on the right and Robin Van Persie sent in a viciously-dipping free-kick which dropped onto the roof of the net with Krul desperately trying to get across.

Yohan Cabaye was unable to make the most of substitue Gabriel Obertan's back-heeled 61st-minute ball into the box, and Wenger decided to make a change of his own seconds later when he replaced Andrey Arshavin with England international Theo Walcott.

The newcomer might have given his side the lead within minutes when he ran onto Aaron Ramsey's through-ball, but he could not beat Krul from close range.

However, the game exploded into controversy with 14 minutes remaining when Barton reacted furiously to what he believed was a dive by Gervinho under Cheick Tiote's challenge inside the box. The Ivory Coast international lost his cool and slapped Barton in the resulting melee, and referee Peter Walton had little option but to produce a red card.

Newcastle might have snatched victory at the death, only for the impressive Koscielny to deny substitute Peter Lovenkrands a close-range header, but that would have been harsh on the visitors, who were nevertheless booed from the pitch.

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