What a cracker this turned out to be, end to end stuff from the off. Not a lot of classic football, but tons of endeavour, lots of good honest challenges and entertainment from start to finish. Our line-up was the one that started at The Theatre of Conmen with the exception of Wiltord who replaced the injured Bergkamp.
A great Cole cross was tipped clear by Given very early. A fine Arsenal multi-pass move ended when a good Wiltord cross that was cleared. The fact that Bramble chopped Gilberto indicates the amount of attacking we were up for, but the ball was soon up the other end. Newcastle were pressed back again as a Parlour run and shot cannoned off Henry for a goal kick. Rain was pouring down and got heavier as the half went on. Henry won a free kick when possession would have been preferred. The heavy rain caused more than one player to lose his footing. A Henry turn run shot sequence forced a great save. Newcastle countered, after Wiltord had a shot cleared. The game seemed too hectic for either team to gain any control but a Lauren cross from the right was sliced and Henry followed up at the far post to make it 1-0 Arsenal. It was still absolutely pissing down. Did we care, of course not.
A Robert cross was held then dropped by Lehmann, fortunately Mary Poppins was asleep at the time. Wiltord upended. Pat off the pitch for treatment. Shearer offside. Patrick subbed by Edu with only twenty minutes gone and for a while we lost control and a bit of shape. Newcastle equalised almost immediately with a slick five or six pass, one-touch move that ended with a Robert tap in. We were slack, they were slick 1-1.
Bellamy flattened Edu and was spoken to by the ref Mike Riley who had a very good match. Rare praise of a ref from me, but he let the game go where he could and didn't get card happy. Gilberto to Sylvain who should have tried one first time but didn't. Fair dues to Wiltord though because he worked seriously hard tonight. Great save by Lehmann from Bernard. Henry called offside when he collected the ball but it was Wiltord, no change there, who was in the offside position. Another great move ended with a Lauren cross. A fine Gilberto run saw Wiltord unlucky to fire over from the floor. Brilliant stuff by Lauren coming out of defence. Cole to Henry for a great turn and shot. A good half but no cigars. Honours shared.
The end to end stuff continued as the rain eased off but there was little controlled passing, the game didn't allow time for it. Great run by Freddie as he was put through by Wiltord, and it seemed it had to be in as Freddie went clear but hit the post and came away. Unlucky. The limping Cole, who had been struggling before the break, was finally replaced by Cygan, as Parlour won another corner. Edu fired over with power from a free kick at distance towards our right. Parlour went in hard as the match was still continuing in an end to end vein. It was mainly Arsenal applying the pressure, but not continuously. With thirty minutes to go Pires replaced Parlour, not to universal acclaim it must be said. 'Ooh Ah Ray Parlour' was the cry. The first, and only, yellow card came with a bad foul on Ljungberg by Robert, Freddie was badly injured and a passenger from here on in.
A Newcastle free kick, which was highly dubious in the first place, was taken about ten yards nearer goal than it should have been but Robert fired it out. A bad foul by Bramble on Cygan wide left. Henry took it and the keeper tipped over for a corner. From the corner an inexplicable handball by Jenas. Penalty. Jenas had guilt written all over his face on the replay screens but Newcastle complained and manhandled the ref anyway. I expect the F A will look into it though don't you?
Henry chipped the pen straight down the middle as Given dived left. There were about eight players encroaching at the time. Do I care? 3-2 Arsenal and ten minutes to survive plus the three that would be added. Freddie limped on, Henry ran himself to a standstill. A Newkie Broon move saw someone blast over from an offside position. Sorry but black numbers on black and white shirts make reading the numbers a joke and I only recognise some Newcastle players at distance. More brilliant play by Kolo who is well on his way to being the Arsenal player of the season, hands up all those who think he should get the six shirt next season? Well I do.
We held on as Newcastle threw in the kitchen sink, albeit inaccurately. But we deserved to hang on, both sides wanted it but I think we gave just a little bit more despite the seriously diminished resources. Heroic stuff from Arsenal, a really fabulous game, a great result and I really enjoyed a good old honest game of English football packed with overseas players playing the English way. Well played Newcastle, well played ref, very well played Arsenal.