Newcastle United 1 Arsenal 1: Taylor's strike a tonic for Allardyce
Thursday 06 December 2007
"Help the lads rebuild the fortress tonight," the advert in The Evening Chronicle implored. The Toon Army did not quite man every section of the barricades some 2,000 tickets remained unsold but St James' was restored to something more like its old self last night, with the Newcastle fans fully behind the Newcastle players and an inspiring United effort keeping the visitors at bay, not to mention the home manager in his job with a deal more security.
Sam Allardyce watched from the sidelines with satisfaction and not a little relief as his team turned their home ground into more of a citadel than the bouncy castle it was threatening to become a leaky one at that, after defeats of 4-1 against Portsmouth and 3-0 against Liverpool. Roared on by their supporters, a reinvigorated, new-look Newcastle rode the blow of conceding a fourth-minute goal to Emmanuel Adebayor to finish on level terms with Arsne Wenger's New Invincibles.
They did so with a goal on the hour by Steven Taylor and departed to thunderous applause, having left a weakened Arsenal side missing Cesc Febregas, Alexander Hleb, Mathieu Flamini and Robin van Persie looking distinctly "vincible". "It was a huge result for us," Allardyce said. "It does take the pressure off."
Indeed it does, with the talk of the Tyne no longer the prospect of Newcastle being in need of an eighth manager in 11 years. Arsenal have had just the one man in charge in that time and, though their fourth draw of the season qualifies as a setback, they are four points clear at the top of the Premier League table and remain unbeaten after 15 games with two points more than the class of 2003-04 had in the bag at the same stage of their unblemished campaign. "It was like they [Newcastle] made a reunion to win the game tonight," Wenger said. "They made a fight of it."
It was a harder fight than it might have been, though. The home guard, with Taylor replacing the injured Abdoulaye Faye, were still finding their feet when they fell a goal behind. From wide and deep on the right, Emmanuel Ebou spotted Adebayor in space in the vicinity of the penalty spot and clipped the ball forward for his team-mate to chest down and send a right-foot volley past Shay Given.
Just over three minutes gone; 1-0 to the Arsenal; and a ninth league goal of the campaign for the Gunners' Togolese marksman. Allardyce grimaced in the directors' box but almost cracked a smile a minute later. Sadly for the Newcastle manager, Geremi is no Adebayor when it comes to finishing. Rising to meet James Milner's ball from the left, he sent his header a foot wide of the post.
The atmosphere had been electric from the start and the Toon Army remained defiantly positive, even when Arsenal showed signs of clicking into the groove that had Aston Villa chasing shadows for 45 minutes last Saturday. It took a near-post block from Given to thwart Adebayor after the 6ft 4in "Kanu with pace", as Wenger dubbed him, skipped past Taylor and Nicky Butt and bore down on the home goal in his deceptively languid fashion.
Not that the traffic was one way. Far from it. Just before the half-hour mark, Geremi thumped a free-kick under the defensive wall, drawing the first save of note from Manuel Almunia. Then, 10 minutes before the interval, Taylor got his head to a right-wing corner from Charles N'Zogbia and Almunia pushed the ball on to his right-hand post. It was a first-class save unassisted by a helping hand from Lassana Diarra, as TV replays confirmed.
There was a big hand all round as Taylor and his team-mates departed at half-time and they got straight back on the front foot after the break, Almunia fielding a long-range effort from N'Zogbia. It might have been different had Tomas Rosicky not run into traffic with Adebayor screaming for a return ball on the break.
As it was, though, Newcastle were level on the hour courtesy of some defensive pussyfooting. Eduardo da Silva was caught trying to dribble out of trouble wide on the left, affording Habib Beye the opportunity to sling the ball into the area, where Alan Smith flicked a header on to Taylor, who smacked a right-foot shot in off the left post.
Newcastle might have pinched the three points, Ebou making a late goalmouth clearance from a David Rozenhal header. Still, the home players left the pitch to the announcement that they had all been voted "man of the match". As for their manager, it was a point of honour. Whether it proves to be a turning point remains to be seen.
Newcastle (4-4-2): Given; Beye, Rozenhal, Taylor, N'Zogbia; Geremi (Viduka 77), Butt, Barton, Emre; Martins, Smith. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Enrique, Emre,Edgar.
Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Ebou, Gilberto, Diarra, Rosicky; Eduardo (Bendtner, 68); Adebayor. Substitutes not used: Lehmann (gk), Denilson, Song, Walcott.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
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