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  • By Yann Tear at Emirates Stadium

Saka to the fore as Arsenal prove too strong for rock-bottom Newcastle United

Arsenal (0) 2 Saka 56, Martinelli 66

Newcastle United (0) 0

Bukayo Saka’s first goal for the Gunners since the September win against Spurs set his team on their way to three points against bottom-of-the table Newcastle.

The winless Geordies made life difficult for Mikel Arteta’s men in the first half, who did not help themselves by squandering a great chance before the break – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hitting the post from point-blank range.

But Saka’s liveliness looked the likeliest source of a breakthrough and so it proved on 56 minutes when he raced through after an exchange of passes between Emile Smith Rowe and Nuno Tavares to bury a low shot into the far corner.

The England winger had already gone close after drifting between defenders to get in a shot at the start of the second half when he hit his third goal of the campaign.

Saka went off soon after with what looked like a thigh strain, but within moments of coming on as his replacement, Gabriel Martinelli hit a delightful second with a deft volley over the shoulder from Takehiro Tomayasu’s chip in from the right.

The Gunners were soon bossing the possession and passing stats, but took a while to make their superiority count.

Saka slid the ball just wide after getting on the end of a floated chip from Sambi Lokonga, Martin Odegaard clipped a sweet left-foot free-kick over the wall which Martin Dubravka palmed aside.

Tomiyasu unleashed a low left-footer inches wide after cutting in from the right to create space for a left-peg strike.

But by far the best chance came just before the break, when Lokongo, darting to the dead-ball line, picked out an Emile Smith Rowe, lurking in the six-yard box.

The midfielder’s header was well saved by Dubravka but from zero distance, Aubameyang failed to put away the rebound – volleying into an upright.

Eddie Howe, on the touchline for the first time since being handed the managerial hotseat at St James’ Park, was happy to see his massed thicket of black and white shirts keep the Gunners at bay and wait for chances on the break.

In one of those raids, Jonjo Shelvey connected beautifully from distance to clip the top of Aaron Ramsdale’s bar. It needed a touch from the keeper to ensure the flight-path diverted from the top corner.

It was more or less the only serious care of the afternoon for the Gunners, who will be relieved to be back to winning ways after last week’s heavy defeat at Liverpool.

Gunners: (4-4-1-1) Ramsdale – Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares – Saka (Martineli 66), Partey (Elneny 85), Lokonga, Smith Rowe – Odegaard – Aubameyang (Lacazette 76). Subs not used: Leno, Tierney, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Pepe, Nketiah

Geordies: (3-4-3) Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles – Fraser, Willock, Shelvey (Hayden 88), Ritchie (Almiron 67) – Joelinton (Murphy 67), Wilson, Saint-Maximin. Subs not used: Darlow, Clark, Lewis, Hendrick, Manquillo, S Longstaff


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