In the end, there was nothing left to check bar the pressure of the ball and size of the goal. Out of play? Check complete. Foul? Check complete. Offside? Check complete. You may argue this takes the fun out of football, but the boys in Stockley Park would have heard the roar from St James’ Park all of 300 miles away when they finally gave the green light for Anthony Gordon’s goal to be awarded. It left Arsenal and Mikel Arteta seeing red.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace this goal is allowed,’ said the Spaniard. ‘It’s embarrassing. I feel sick.’
In fairness to VAR Andy Madley, he and his team appeared to get it right, at least within the context of replays showing no clear evidence of any of the above infringements. Arteta disagreed, although it was unclear exactly why.
Was the VAR process exhaustive? Yes. But less exhausting than the post-match debate had a seemingly legitimate goal been disallowed. The 64th-minute effort was enough to inflict a first league defeat of the season on Arsenal, who came into this with the same record as Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles after their opening 10 games – seven won, three drawn. It could yet prove a bruising loss in one more ways than one, given a bad-tempered contest in which the foul count dwarfed the three shots on goal. Referee Stuart Attwell hardly helped, and he officiated like longing for a return to the Championship. The mitigation is that any referee may have panicked amid this chaos.
Eddie Howe’s side made it a fight from the off and sent the Gunners south licking their wounds. Their spirit and physicality proved far superior in the second half and victory was deserved.
Gordon smashed home from close range to give Newcastle the lead just after the hour
The 22-year-old continued his stellar form this campaign after winning the golden ball at the U21 European Championship last summer
Mikel Arteta’s side suffered their first defeat of the season in the Premier League but their second in as many matches after losing in midweek in the Carabao Cup
Arsenal did not manage a single effort on target as they chased an equaliser and, given they now trail leaders Manchester City by three points, maybe this was a campaign in which they had to go unbeaten to take the title, like Wenger’s vintage of 20 years ago.
This version, however, are unlikely to win the Premier League while Arteta persists with his Kai Havertz experiment. It took on a new guise here, deployed further upfield and just off striker Eddie Nketiah. He is a very good footballer, Havertz, but one seemingly incapable of having a very good game.
Newcastle have struggled with opposition No.10s this season, and that no doubt formed part of Arteta’s thinking. They managed Havertz. He still made himself the main talking point of a first half in which plenty of shots were fired, just none of them with a football.
The German took leave of the ground and his senses when attempting to block Sean Longstaff’s clearance in the 37th minute. He was fortunate to avoid both a red card and Longstaff’s kicking leg. Had he connected with the latter then his match would have been over. Still, it was a brainless act that could have cost his team, not to mention his opponent.
Longstaff rightly made the point that him escaping serious injury was no reason not to dismiss Hazertz, and for that he was booked. So, too, were Gordon and Fabian Schar for their protests. Arsenal, then, emerged the clear victors from this skirmish. Havertz, unwittingly, had finally contributed.
By contrast to his team-mate, Declan Rice is an exceptional footballer seemingly incapable of having a bad game. But even he became involved the hostilities, soon swapping shoves with Bruno Guimaraes. That must have riled the Brazilian, because moments later he left an elbow – off the ball – on the back of Jorginho’s head. It was sneaky, and even too cute for VAR. Belatedly, in first-half injury time, a football match broke out. At least, that is, in the sense that Guimaraes had a shot that he dragged wide and Gabriel Martinelli recorded the game’s first effort on target. It had been fast, fun and furious entering the break, but hardly representative of two fine football sides.
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Declan Rice squandered the best chance the Gunners had in the second-half, putting his header wide of Nick Pope’s goal
Eddie Howe masterminded another stunning victory over a big six side as Newcastle look in good shape to challenge for Champions League qualification once again
The heavens opened on what had been an unheavenly contest at the start of the second half. Did the rainfall wash the game clean? No chance. Guimaraes left a little bit more on his former compatriot Jorginho, Havertz flirted with a red when sliding in on Wilson and the latter then claimed he’d been elbowed by William Saliba, leading to a VAR check that found no offence.
Rice should have then given Arsenal the lead but he headed wide from 10 yards, a miss they would live to regret.
Newcastle soon had their goal, even if they were made to wait for confirmation of it. Jacob Murphy ran clear and smashed across goal, and the chance looked until Joe Willock retrieved the ball by the corner-flag.
It looked out of play. He crossed and Joelinton bullied Gabriel inside the six-yard box. It could have been a foul. The ball landed for Gordon and he swiped into the roof of the net from barely a yard out. He could have been offside. It all happened in a flash, which is more than can be said of the subsequent five-minute check.
Still, it was worth the wait for the Toon Army.