Newcastle United 0 Arsenal 1
- Martin Atkinson
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second half winner handed Arsenal a narrow opening-day victory over Newcastle United on Sunday.
Aubameyang struck just before the hour at St. James’ Park, capitalising on a defensive lapse and beating Martin Dúbravka.
Steve Bruce – in his first competitive game as the Magpies’ head coach – had seen his side apply plenty of pressure in the first half, with record signing Joelinton twice going close and Jonjo Shelvey striking the woodwork.
But in the end, Aubameyang’s delicate finish was enough to give the visitors three points – and condemn Newcastle to a first-day defeat.
Bruce’s charges made much the better start to the first half on a wet afternoon on Tyneside. Joelinton, handed a Premier League bow after his summer switch from Hoffenheim, glanced Matt Ritchie’s cross just wide before they went even closer 20 minutes in, with Shelvey rattling the post with a deflected shot from 18 yards.
The Gunners, meanwhile, offered little threat in the opening 45 minutes, despite enjoying some decent spells of possession. United seemed to pin them back at times, with countless errors gifting the hosts the ball. When they did get themselves into positions to ask questions of the Newcastle rearguard, nothing came of it; Henrikh Mkhitaryan blazed a shot over after Nacho Monreal had got into the box on the left, while Aubameyang tested Martin Dúbravka from a tight angle.
The Magpies didn’t fashion too many more clear-cut opportunities themselves, despite their industrious work in the middle of the park, though Joelinton did force Bernd Leno to parry his shot after he collected the ball on the edge of the area and drove forward.
Aubameyang’s speed allowed him a sight of goal after the restart, as he latched onto Granit Xhaka’s pass in behind the United defence before seeing his effort take a deflection and drop just over the bar.
But, 57 minutes in, the Gabonese frontman was presented with a chance he couldn’t pass up. The hosts lost the ball in their own half and the former Borussia Dortmund man sensed an opening, timing his run to meet Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s cross and lift the ball over Dúbravka and into the net.
Allan Saint-Maximin was introduced for the final 25 minutes as Bruce’s side sought a leveller, and the Frenchman made his presence felt immediately, taking on his man, winning a corner and raising the volume inside St. James’ Park.
But a chance to grab an equaliser wasn’t forthcoming despite the winger’s dynamic cameo – which included a low drive that Leno held onto in the closing stages – and Unai Emery’s men held on to take the points back to north London.