Arsenal overcame stubborn opposition to progress to the next stage of the FA Cup, with two goals in extra time just enough to see off Newcastle.
Substitutes changed the game for Arsenal, with Arteta bringing on the first goalscorer, Emile Smith-Rowe. Before that it seemed as if Newcastle may well do enough to see the game out to penalties.
They could even say they were unlucky not to snatch the game, with two clear-cut chances for Andy Carroll missed, with the second chance coming in the last knockings of regular time.
However, Arsenal should have been ahead well before that.
Mikel Arteta brought in Cedric at right back and David Luiz in the centre of defence, resting Bellerin and Rob Holding. Mo Elneny and Joe Willock were in the centre of the park, with Pepe, Willian - who only came into the side after an injury to Martinelli in the warmup - and Aubameyang the three in attack.
It meant a rest for the youngsters who have been the catalyst for our Premier League recovery – Smith-Rowe and Saka. Lacazette has also been in fine form too – and all three were on the bench for this game.
Arsenal started pretty well too, Tierney a constant threat down the left with his roving runs – and the beauty of his play is that he never leaves us wanting in defence either. But our first real chance didn’t come until the 25th minute, with Dubravka in the Newcastle goal saving well from a goal-starved Aubameyang from close range.
Tierney then set up Nelson in the box, but Newcastle had enough men back to close out the winger before he could get the shot off properly. We were playing pretty well and we were within a whisker of taking the lead when Auba slipped in Pepe, but a last-ditch tackle stopped the Ivorian from netting.
But we were well on top – but could we make the domination count?
Half time came and went and Newcastle made a change, bringing on Matt Ritchie for the booked Jamal Lascelles – and the shift in formation saw the Toon take the initiative.
However, we did have the first chance, and it was down to Pepe’s invention, but his end product was off – shooting wide.
Arteta could sense that Newcastle were getting the upper hand, so he made his first change on 57 minutes, with Emile Smith-Rowe coming on for Nelson, who had tried hard but had little joy.
Seven minutes later, we had our best chance, with Pepe swinging in a short cross that Willock met in the air after ghosting in. He headed down but Dubravka saved well to turn it around the post.
We made two more changes soon after, with Xhaka and Saka coming on for Willock and Willian. Arteta was doing all he could do to win this before extra time.
Bruce followed suit, with more changes, and the game was up for grabs with less than twenty to play.
Smith-Rowe had been on the ball plenty since his introduction, but found himself losing control of the ball and lunged out a leg to regain it. A Newcastle player ran on to the loose ball and went down heavily. Chris Kavanagh reached for the red. It was sent to VAR, and that is where the sending off was rightly rescinded.
As the game trickled away, in the last kick of normal time, Andy Carroll found himself all alone with the ball in the box with just Leno to beat, after a fortunate pass found his way. Carroll went for power, and his effort was stopped by a great save from Leno, a low hand to his left stopping the effort.
Extra time arrived, and Arteta shuffled the pack once more, with Lacazette coming on for Pepe, and the effect was immediate. Lacazette nodded a ball onto the running Smith-Rowe after Ciaran Clark had given the ball away. Smith-Rowe chested it down and the angle was acute, but the playmaker got a great connection on his shot, which was arrowed into the far corner. It was a beaut of a finish.
Newcastle looked deflated, they had just had a player booked for timewasting, so their intention was clearly to get to penalties – and they weren’t far away, but the goal changed everything.
Tierney hadn’t stopped throughout, and after Xhaka laid on a slide-rule pass for the Scot, the defender squared it for the lurking Aubameyang to tuck home from close range.
That was that, we had toughed it out and stayed in the hat for our Cup.
Here’s the salient points:
The Scot was effective at both ends – and has been all season. Pray he stays fit as he is irreplaceable at present.
Reliant on kids
Smith-Rowe changed the game. Tierney is only 23. Saka has been on fire all season. These three have been the crux of our recent recovery and Smith-Rowe and Tierney made the difference here.
Older stars need to step up
Another opportunity for Willian, and another no show. Tidy, but a ghost of the player who ripped it up with Chelsea. Pepe didn’t have a bad game, but he is capable of so much more.
Where is AMN?
Maitland-Niles’ energy in the centre could have made a big difference here, but he only came on in the 120th minute. He can’t buy a start, never mind in midfield. What is going on?
Next up is a Premier League clash against Crystal Palace on Thursday.
Rate our players performance here.