Arsenal 2, Newcastle 0

What a nailbiting match! Newcastle started as if they were on fire, and Arsenal were doing all they could to douse the flames that were popping up everywhere. As if the pace of the typical English game wasn’t fast enough! It looked like Graeme Souness had a good chance of keeping his job – at least, this week.
And then the Geordies’ enthusiasm received a slap in the face, when Jermaine Jenas, ironically an Arsenal target for the transfer market, kicked Gilberto Silva from behind, in full view of the referee. It looked bad but most people were surprised when the referee flashed red. Even le captain Thierry Henry seemed to think it was harsh, exchanging words with Souness, of all people. Henry makes friends wherever he goes.
Still, Newcastle being a man down didn’t seem to dampen their spirits, and their fans roared with approval. The Arsenal fans seemed relatively subdied. My heart started to pound as the minutes ticked by, past the hour mark. Couldn’t Arsenal score a goal? Even one measely goal would be good enough at the rate things were going.
Eventually, a foul on the vivacious Freddie Ljungberg, who was pulled down in the penalty box, resulted in a Thierry Henry free kick. You had to feel sorry for goalie Shay Given (although his name sounds ominously like a ‘sheer given’), because he actually made many good saves. I feel he was actually better than his counterpart Jenns Lehmann, except that the latter was seldom challenged especially in the second half. Newcastle were quickly running out of steam now.
Finally – finally! They took out the misfiring Dennis Bergkamp as well as Robert Pires – the greying members of Arsenal’s squad, as well as Newcastle captain Alan Shearer, who had a goal offside. In came Aleksander Hleb and Robin van Persie. What took Arsene Wenger so long? We only had 20 minutes left to seal a victory with a second goal!
But the second goal did come – an excellent assist from Ljungberg at a very narrow angle, finished by van Persie who fired between the goalpost and Shay Given’s left arm and leg. Given must be feeling rotten about it but apart from that he had a good game.
So it ended – and my heart has stopped pounding.
It’s now on to David versus Goliath (Wigan v Chelsea), except that in this case, I don’t think that ‘David’ even has a sling. We’ll hope the scoreline stays in the single digits, and that Wigan will pull a few surprises.