Premier League leaders Arsenal dropped points at home for the first time this season as they were held to a goalless draw by high-flying Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
Mike Arteta’s side had the better of the opportunities, most coming in the opening stages, but Newcastle showed why they have the best defensive record in the division this season to earn their point.
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Arsenal, who had won all seven of their previous Premier League home games this season, missed the chance to extend their lead over Manchester City at the top to 10 points. Pep Guardiola’s champions will now be able to cut the gap back to five points when they visit Chelsea on Thursday.
With the draw, Newcastle remain third, nine points behind Arsenal but having played a game more.
Arsenal made a lightning start to the match, when it appeared they could overwhelm their visitors from the north east. The hosts had five shots at Nick Pope’s goal in the first seven minutes of the contest.
Granit Xhaka had two of those, first seeing an effort blocked by the Newcastle defense before shooting wide into the side netting from a tight angle. Captain Martin Odegaard also put a volley high over the crossbar while Bukayo Saka was the only one to force Pope into action after beating two defenders and cutting into the box down the right.
But after that initial salvo, Newcastle managed to slow Arsenal’s momentum and get a foothold in a match that turned increasingly physical as five yellow cards were dished out in the first 45 minutes.
There was still a golden opportunity for each side before half-time, however, both from set-pieces. Gabriel looped a header just wide from an Odegaard free kick on 35 minutes before the half ended with Joelinton failing to find the target from close range at the back post from a flicked-on corner.
The best chance of a tight second half also came from a dead-ball situation. This time it was Gabriel Martinelli who headed just wide of the target from an Odegaard inswinging corner with 11 minutes remaining.
As Arteta cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the touchline, Arsenal were denied a final chance to get the win when a penalty claim for handball in the box was waived away in stoppage time.