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Football Reporting


Mikel Arteta facing major issue ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final second leg

Mikel Arteta now has a headache ahead of Arsenal’s Europa League semi final next week.

The Gunners reserves put on a lively, dominant display at St James’s Park, and several stars will now fancy their chances of a call up for the second leg at the Emirates on Thursday.

Arteta rested eight men from the 2-1 defeat to Villarreal last week, protecting his supposed first choice line up for the game that will define their season.

But it won’t have gone unnoticed that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli, both benched for European duty, combined the finish this pedestrian match as a contest.

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Hard-running Martinelli wriggled free on the left to fire in a cross that Aubameyang karate kicked home. Time for the pair to be recalled?

This was always going to be a game for Aubameyang up front. His 66th minute goal, Arsenal’s second, was his sixth in his last five games against the Geordies.

And perhaps all it was ever going to take was a virtual second string. Newcastle don’t turn up against the North Londoners.

Mikel Arteta now has a selection dilemma
Mikel Arteta now has a selection dilemma

Arsenal have now won 17 of the last 18 competitive games against Newcastle. Steve Bruce has beaten Arsenal twice in 24 games as a manager.

Arteta’s men cruised to a sixth minute lead. Newcastle made it an easy, sleepy afternoon for the visitors.

Mohamed Elneny smashed home his first Premier League goal from the edge of the box to open the scoring.

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David Luiz unlocked the defence with a back-spinning pass up the line for Hector Bellerin to cross.

Aubameyang miss-kicked but the ball rebounded to Elneny. Martin Dubravka got a hand on the shot and could have done better.

Elneny said: “I’m really happy about my first goal. The feeling is amazing, I’ve been dreaming about scoring a goal in the Premier League. My celebration came from my heart and I thank God for the opportunity.

“It’s great for the managers to rotate the players. Everyone is ready to start, we’re all fighting for positions, everyone gives their best to help the team. It was an important win today as we had the result we didn’t want on Thursday.”

Newcastle stank of lethargy as they started a trio of tough games where their points return will be limited. The job of avoiding relegation is almost done, but not quite, and fans will have expected more energy, and spike, than was expended here.

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Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Newcastle
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his side’s second goal against Newcastle

Bruce’s side could have three down in the first half hour alone, Arsenal having 13 efforts on goal and total dominance. Willian was the only Arsenal outfield player not to have a shot.

Elneny came close to grabbing a second, heading unmarked at goal from a corner, but Miguel Almiron flicked off the line.

And left back Granit Xhaka, who was booked for fouling Saint-Maximin after just 20 minutes, tested Dubravka from 22 yards but the keeper saved well.

Allan Saint-Maximin was at the centre of the rare good Newcastle produced. The French winger hit a looping shot which Matt Ryan tipped over, their only shot on target.

David Luiz, back after injury, limped off again after the break and is out of contract in the summer.

Swiss international Fab Schar was sent off in injury time for scything through Martinelli from behind and leaving the star performer.

Schar only came on in the 72 minute after 11 weeks out, hoping to prove his fitness before the Euros but now faces a ban.

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For Arsenal it’s one last push to rescue their season.

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