ARSENAL closed in on another shot at Champions League qualification with a routine 3-0 win over Newcastle last night to inflict a sixth straight defeat on under-pressure Magpies boss Alan Pardew, who returned to the dugout following a lengthy touchline ban.
Scorers: Arsenal - Koscielny (26), Ozil (42), Giroud (66)
Arsene Wenger’s side are now four points ahead of Everton in the race to secure a top-four finish, with just two matches remaining, as club-record signing Mesut Ozil delivered an inspired display, scoring one and creating another. While the Gunners looked set to mount a title challenge during an impressive first half of the season, their campaign had threatened to be derailed by an impressive Everton, but the Goodison Park side’s defeat at Southampton handed Wenger’s men a major incentive to secure three points last night.
With an FA Cup final against Hull City also on the horizon, the season could now end in more than satisfactory fashion for the London side. Newcastle, though, continue their slide down the Barclays Premier League following another lacklustre display – which left the 2,000-strong travelling support venting their anger on Pardew, whose long-term future at the club is in doubt.
Arsenal showed the greater intent during the opening stages, with an angled drive from Ozil bouncing just wide before Laurent Koscielny stabbed in a deep free-kick from Santi Cazorla on 26 minutes.
Newcastle briefly rallied, but were soon chasing the game again and fell further behind three minutes before half-time when Ozil swept home after Olivier Giroud twice had shots blocked by busy keeper Tim Krul.
The visitors had a great chance to reduce the arrears just before the hour when Yoan Gouffran sprinted clear, but Wojciech Szczesny was out quickly to save.
Arsenal moved 3-0 ahead on 66 minutes when Ozil’s inch-perfect cross was headed in by Olivier Giroud.
The massed ranks of the Toon Army had endured enough and turned on their manager, whose relationship with the hardiest of supporters is now strained at best despite the team’s form earlier in the season having ensured a mid-table finish
Arsenal, though, look all set to finish in the Champions League places again as they chase a place at Europe’s top table for a remarkable 17 straight campaigns.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Ramsey (Rosicky 74), Cazorla, Ozil (Flamini 74), Podolski, Giroud (Sanogo 84). Subs not used: Vermaele, Fabianski, Jenkinson, Kallstrom.
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy (Yanga-Mbiwa 84), Williamson, Coloccini, Dummett, Tiote, Anita, Sissoko, Gosling (Shola Ameobi 70), Gouffran (Armstrong 89), Remy. Subs not used: Haidara, Elliot, Obertan, Steven Taylor.
Referee: N Swarbrick.
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
• Email your Scottish football question for the BT Sport panel to answer. The next show will be recorded on May 7 after St Johnstone v Celtic with the video available on The Scotsman website the following day. You can also tweet us @TheScotsman.
A line-up of experts will handle your questions after each BT Sport game. Most match days, the team includes Darrell Currie, Derek Rae and Gary McAllister.
Over this season, BT Sport will air 30 SPFL matches plus 10 Rangers games from the SPFL League One.
• T&C We can not guarantee which presenters will answer your questions. Questions are vetted and no correspondence will be entered into.