Belfast Telegraph

Vermaelen helps Gunners march on

Thomas Vermaelen struck in the fifth minute of injury time as fourth-placed Arsenal moved to within one point of bitter rivals Tottenham with a dramatic 2-1 win over Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners went behind to a precise finish from Hatem Ben Arfa in the first half but they were level 55 seconds later when Robin van Persie held off Mike Williamson's challenge to slot home Theo Walcott's cross.

Van Persie, Tomas Rosicky and Gervinho were all guilty of wasting good chances in the second half and the game looked beyond Arsenal, but Vermaelen popped up in the 95th minute to rifle home Walcott's cross from close range to snatch all three points.

Having stretched their unbeaten run to four games with an impressive hammering of AC Milan last week, the north London side started well as Walcott found space on the touchline and whipped across a wicked pass, but Van Persie somehow failed to tap in from six yards.

The Gunners were dominating but the home crowd were stunned in to silence in the 15th minute when the Magpies took the lead. Vermaelen erroneously passed to Cheick Tiote and the ball found its way to the right flank, where Ben Arfa cut inside and fired a precise finish past Wojciech Szczesny.

The home crowd were on their feet less than a minute later, however, as Van Persie came to the rescue. Walcott galloped down the right after being freed by Rosicky and he crossed for the Dutchman, who shrugged off Williamson's challenge before slotting home.

Fabricio Coloccini threw himself in to the line of Mikel Arteta's shot to deny Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who moments later delivered a pin-point cross to Van Persie but the striker could only muster a weak shot at Tim Krul.

Rosicky, who signed a contract extension earlier on Monday, then missed a glorious chance to put Arsenal ahead. He exchanged passes with Walcott, and found acres of space in the box but he mis-hit so badly that his shot went out for a throw.

Arteta's corner somehow evaded everyone in the box apart from Gervinho at the back post but he horribly miscued wide before Krul came to Newcastle's rescue in the final minute, palming over a brilliant header from Vermaelen with an acrobatic save which looked to have saved the game.

Arsene Wenger thought the game was over, sitting with his head in his hands, but Walcott's 95th-minute cross dropped in to Vermaelen's path and he finished from close range to send the home crowd in to ecstasy.


From Belfast Telegraph