Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1

  • By: Carl Liddle, PA Sport
  • Last Updated: May 22 2012, 10:01 BST

England striker Ian Wright came back to haunt the Magpies once again as he

ended his six-game Premiership goal to give Arsenal victory at St James' Park

today.

Wright scored the winner for the Gunners at Newcastle last season and he was

at it again after Dutch master Dennis Bergkamp had opened up the United

defence.

Bergkamp broke to the byline after beating Darren Peacock before crossing for

Wright to head home unmarked from eight yards.

All eyes before the game had been on United's returning Colombian Faustino

Asprilla, who was back after a 13-game lay-off, but it was Bergkamp who ran the

show.

The striker took on the Newcastle defence almost single-handedly and kept

keeper Shaka Hislop busy with three efforts in the first-half.

The storm clouds hung over St James' Park even before the match but with

Asprilla back the Newcastle fans thought they had their own ray of sunshine to

hang their hopes on.

But Asprilla was well short of match fitness and missed a great second-half

chance when normally he would have sped clear of the chasing Martin Keown to

fire at David Seaman's goal.

And it was no real surprise when he was replaced in the 62nd minute by

Philippe Albert.

With Manchester United beating Liverpool 3-1 only hours earlier, both clubs

needed to take all three points to keep their title hopes alive and it wasn't

long before it became clear which was the better equipped to do so.

John Barnes, the Magpies' leading scorer in the Premiership, returned, though

Shay Given stayed on the bench with Shaka Hislop retaining the goalkeeper's

jersey.

Before the kick-off, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had to decide whether to leave

Wright on the bench after he had failed to score a Premiership goal in six

games.

But the Frenchman opted to include the unpredictable striker, a decision which

paid handsome dividends, while the visitors were still without central defender

Steve Bould (suspended) and Patrick Vieira (injury) out.

The opening exchanges were confined to the visitors' half but the home attack

failed to produce the opening fireworks expected with Asprilla back in the

line-up.

The Colombian's first touch, which came in the fourth minute, saw England

defender Tony Adams making a powerful challenge which let the striker know he

was there.

Bergkamp then came into the game with a fine fifth minute drive which struck a

team-mate as it flew through to Hislop.

United then almost took the lead with a superb Keith Gillespie half-volley

which needed all of David Seaman's brilliance to save.

From the resulting corner John Barnes spectacularly fired over with an

overhead kick.

After 15 minutes skipper Rob Lee struck a low effort which Seaman failed to

hold and Jon Dahl Tomasson, who was following up, was caught offside.

United's purple patch continued with Stuart Pearce firing a free-kick towards

the top corner only for Seaman to excel once again.

However, Bergkamp then got to grips with the game taking by the scruff of the

neck as he launched an almost single-handed attack on Hislop.

The Dutchman was unable to beat the Magpies keeper but he finally unlocked an

unsure United defence to set up Wright for the winner.

Newcastle tried to hit back after the break and an early Gillespie break

forced an indirect free-kick which Pearce blasted goalwards but no United player

was able to get a touch.

The visitors still looked so dangerous with Overmars, Wright and Bergkamp a

more than useful trio.

By contrast, without Alan Shearer United look anything but dangerous going

forward and even the return of Asprilla failed to ignite any real quality in

front of goal.

The home crowd showed their frustrations with their powder puff efforts and as

the game went into its final moments the visitors began to look for a second.

Adams went close, while Overmars had a chance and well before the end many of

the home fans were making their way out of the stadium.

Arsenal were well served by both Adams and Keown at the back but Bergkamp was

the star and displayed the class and quality which United so clearly lacked in

their attack.

During the final moments Albert had a shot deflected wide but this was a rare

moment of danger for Seaman and Arsenal were able to hang on with some comfort.

Teams:

Newcastle: Hislop, Watson, Peacock, Pearce, Pistone, Batty, Lee,

Barnes, Gillespie, Tomasson (Ketsbaia 75), Asprilla (Albert 62).

Subs Not Used: Given, Howey, Hamilton.

Arsenal: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Keown, Winterburn, Parlour, Petit,

Platt, Overmars, Wright, Bergkamp.

Subs Not Used: Manninger, Upson, Mendez, Marshall, Hughes.

Booked: Petit, Adams.

Goals: Wright 36.

Att: 36,751

Ref: S W Dunn (Bristol).