Goals in the second half of injury time from Emile Smith Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ensured that Arsenal’s defense of their FA Cup title began on a winning note. The Gunners secured a 2-0 win over Newcastle United at home on Saturday.
There was little to separate both sides in regulation time, as two uninspired attacks came up against two resolute defenses.
The Gunners enjoyed the better opportunities in the first half. But it was the Magpies who passed up arguably the best chance to win the game in regulation time, as Andy Carroll was denied from close range by Bernd Leno.
The visitors were made to rue their wastefulness as the game drifted into extra time. Smith Rowe sent the holders into the lead in the 109th minute with a tidy volleyed finish that went in off the far post.
Aubameyang then secured the win for the home side eight minutes later, tapping home Kieran Tierney’s pass to put the game beyond doubt for the current FA Cup holders.
On that note, here are the Arsenal player ratings as Mikel Arteta’s men went through to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Bernd Leno: 6/10
Despite having little to do for most of the game, Leno kept his side in the game (and the tournament) with a fantastic one-on-one save from Carroll in second-half injury time.
However, while the German’s handling was extremely assured, he failed to inspire the same confidence with the ball at his feet. His passes out from the back put his side in a spot of bother on a couple of occasions.
Cedric Soares: 4/10
Making a rare appearance in the Arsenal starting lineup, the Portuguese international looked off the pace as he struggled both offensively and defensively.
Unlike Tierney on the opposite flank, Cedric rarely got forward and also picked up a yellow card in the first half for crudely pulling back Miguel Almiron.
David Luiz: 5/10
The Brazilian was forced to draw upon every bit of his considerable experience, as Carroll and Joelinton made life tough for the Arsenal defenders.
However, Luiz rose to the challenge well and was usually in the right place at the right time to make the requisite tackles and clearances.
Pablo Mari: 5/10
The Spaniard had a couple of nervy moments in possession dangerously close to his own goal in an otherwise calm and collected display. His performance will no doubt win him favor with the Arsenal faithful.
Kieran Tierney: 8/10
Fresh from a goal-scoring return against West Brom, Tierney was arguably Arsenal’s most potent attacking threat as he dominated the left flank.
The Scotsman made a number of marauding forward runs and sent in a series of inviting crosses, one of which teed up Aubameyang for the clincher.
Mohamed Elneny: 5/10
The Egyptian created an effective shield in front of his defenders, performing his defensive duties with a single-minded focus. Elneny rarely ventured forward to join in with his side’s attacks.
Joe Willock: 5/10
Playing in a more withdrawn midfield role than he is used to, the Arsenal youngster acquitted himself well in a physical battle.
Willock made a couple of well-timed runs into the box from deep but should have made more of an impact, having gotten into good positions in front of goal.
Nicolas Pepe: 5/10
It was a frustrating outing for the Ivorian. Pepe got into a number of promising positions during the course of his lively display on the Arsenal right, only to be repeatedly let down at the final stage due to an errant pass or a wayward shot.
Pepe was replaced by Lacazette in the second half of extra time.
Deployed in the number 10 role directly behind the striker, Willian failed to offer any creativity during his time on the pitch.
The Brazilian was taken off with 25 minutes to go after a series of wayward shots, misplaced passes, and losses of possession.
Reiss Nelson: 4/10
A late inclusion to the Arsenal starting eleven after Gabriel Martinelli injured his ankle in the warmup, Nelson was ineffectual in attack. He struggled to get on the ball and failed to create much when he did have it in his possession.
Nelson was taken off early in the second half.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 6/10
Largely starved of quality service in the first half, the Arsenal skipper was more involved in the second half. However, Aubameyang failed to make the most of the opportunities that came his way.
To his credit, he did not let the frustration get the best of him as he sealed the tie with a deft finish for the second goal.
Emile Smith Rowe: 7/10
The youngster experienced a roller-coaster of emotions after coming on as a second-half substitute.
After a late red card was downgraded to yellow following a VAR review, Smith Rowe made the most of his reprieve by scoring a superb goal. He flashed a fine volleyed finish past Dubravka that went in off the far post.
Bukayo Saka: 6/10
Saka’s arrival in the second half brought about an increase in intensity from the home side. The in-form youngster took up dangerous positions on the wing and made life tough for the Newcastle full-backs.
Saka also played a key part in the opener for his side.
Granit Xhaka: 5/10
Xhaka replaced Willock in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield and focused solely on protecting his backline. He helped his side make the transition from back to front as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Alexandre Lacazette: 6/10
Replaced Pepe in the second half of extra time and showed great desire to win a highly-contested header that led to Arsenal’s late winner.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: N.A.
Replaced an injured Cedric in the final few seconds.Published 10 Jan 2021, 02:18 IST