Arsenal progressed to the quarter finals of the Carling Cup after fielding a stronger side than previous seasons in this competition. Although Arsene Wenger made 9 changes to the side that defeated Manchester City at the weekend, he was still able to field plenty of first team regulars. Chris Hughton also made 9 changes to his side that beat West Ham at the weekend, but the difference in the squads was evidenced by the fact that Wenger was still able to include the likes of Eboue, Gibbs, Walcott, Rosicky and Bendtner. Unusual too was the selection of 5 Englishman in the Arsenal squad, although only 3 were ever on the field at the same time.
The game started at a hectic pace, with Arsenal having four attempts on goal in the first 5 minutes, resulting in two saves from Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul and two blockages by Williamson. The game settled into Arsenal’s regular passing game and the difference in possession, territory and attempts on goal were wildly in Arsenal’s favour approaching half time. But for all that, Arsenal were unable to convert those stats into goals and Newcastle had one of the best chances of the half when Gunners goalkeeper Chesney (Wojciech Szczesny) came rushing out to the edge of his area to the oncoming Nile Ranger. Chesney was unable to stop him and was fortunate not to foul Ranger and go off. But Koscielny was able to block Rangers shot. The resulting clearance fell to Smith, who thundered a shot from 25 yards out and Chesney redeemed himself by making the save of the match and tipping it onto, then over the bar. The referee thought that the save was so good he awarded Chesney a goal kick.
In injury time in the first half Arsenal took the lead via a scrappy home goal. Bendtner fired in a header, Krul was lost in the crowded box, but Taylor headed a clearance off the line. Unfortunately this hit Krul in the back of the head and rebounded into the net.
The second half was more competitive with Newcastle bringing on Gutiérrez and Carroll who both had good chances to even things up. But Arsenal’s finishing was more accurate in this period. Walcott’s first goal was controversial, as Bendtner ran into a Newcastle defender while coming back from an offside position, but Williamson was unlikely to catch Walcott and his finish was clinical. Bendtner also converted from the left of the box with a goal very similar to the one he scored at the weekend and Walcott rounded it all off, beating the goalkeeper in another one on one, in the 88th minute.
Wojciech Szczesny (Chesney) made a good account of himself, apart from the one notable mistake. He is apparently the future of Arsenal goalkeeping and certainly inspired confidence with some good saves and command of his area.
In the other games in this round Aston Villa beat Burnley 2-1 and West Ham beat Stoke 3-1 both after extra time. Birmingham, Ipswich, Manchester United, West Brom and Wigan are the other quarter finalists.
Next up for Arsenal are Newcastle’s last opponents West Ham and Newcastle face Sunderland in the big North East derby.
By Max Power