Another frustrating night for Newcastle United, with several wasted second half chances punished by extra time strikes from Emile Smith-Rowe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
After a uninspiring first half that saw us sit too deep, offer nothing on the counter and commit so few bodies forward, we were much better in the second 45 and should’ve scored through TWO big chances for Andy Carroll.
Those misses proved costly, with us running out of steam and gifting Arsenal that all important breakthrough via a rare Ciaran Clark error (he’d been brilliant prior to his mistake) as Arsenal bagged two in added time to go through.
There were a few positives to take – Dubravka was good on his return, Carroll much better aside from his misses and our defence solid until the final 15 minutes – but that’s a disappointing way to be dumped out of the FA Cup, one win in seven, another season without a trophy and just one goal in EIGHT hours of football for NUFC.
It’s also worth noting that tonight’s defeat means it’s now NINE years since we beat a Premier League side in this competition!
Bruce made a host of changes from the side that lost to Leicester last time out, with Dubravka, Krafth, Lascelles, Dummett, Hayden and Carroll coming in for Darlow, Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Matty Longstaff and Callum Wilson – with the latter and Jonjo Shelvey withdrawn from the matchday squad this morning as a ‘precaution’.
5-2-2-1: Dubravka – Krafth, Hayden, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett – S Longstaff, Hendrick – Almiron, Joelinton – Carroll.
We started OK, having (wait for this!) a whopping 55% of possession across the opening 25 minutes. Nothing special – especially when it didn’t result in a single shot – but a rare feat for Steve Bruce this season to have more of the ball.
In that period Arsenal forced Dubravka into three saves. The first two were simple gathers from shots outside the box, but his first meaningful stop came after Aubameyang got in behind and smashed a shot straight at the big Slovakian.
This was the start of Arsenal controlling the game, with the final 20 minutes of the half consisting of a few cynical fouls, some good defensive headers from Carroll and one brilliant covering challenge by Hayden:
After seeing a decent amount of the ball early on, we saw less and less of it as the first 45 went on and were camped in our own half at times as Arsenal took control.
The lack of pace in our side (other than Almiron) was alarming, with us failing to cause any problems on the break, slow in possession and struggling to get bodies into the box the rare occasion we got the ball into decent crossing positions.
Half-time and it was 0-0. A poor game and a frustrating watch – but a game that we could still win IF we upped it.
The second half saw Lascelles make way (let’s hope it’s fatigue and not an injury!) and Ritchie come on, meaning we reverted to a back four, with Dummett slotting in at left-back and Ritchie moving out wide.
Our first effort of the night then arrived via a tame Andy Carroll header. It was never troubling Leno, but it was good to FINALLY see us get a half decent ball into the box – even if our decision to initially go short from the free kick was baffling at best!
We were now pushing higher up the pitch, getting men into the box and enjoying a promising period of good pressure. After a clever chest down and powerful shot from Carroll gave Leno his first save to make (see above), the big man had a golden chance to make it 0-1…but missed from SIX yards after latching onto a miscued shot from Hendrick.
He had to score…
A few chances arrived soon after at the other end as Aubameyang got in down our left and dinked wide, with Dubravka then coming up trumps just a few minutes later – tipping a goal-bound header from Willock around the post.
Despite that, this felt like a game that was there for the taking at this point, with the holders looking flat and short on ideas as we brought on Murphy for Krafth to give us that extra bit of pace down our right-hand side.
We looked solid at the back and were frustrating them, but, after a decent spell of pressure that saw us play higher up the pitch, it was odd to see us sit 10 yards deeper soon after Murphy came on.
The game was threatening to fizzle out and go to penalties, but a ray of hope arrived with 10 minutes to play as we saw outstanding 18-year-old and U-23 star Elliot Anderson make his senior debut – and he very nearly won us the game within the 90!
After a good run and clever cut-back from Murphy – who was picked out well from Sean Longstaff – local lad Elliot Anderson had a shot blocked and the ball then fell to Carroll. Another big chance for the striker and an opportunity to win it at the death, but his effort was smothered by Leno and the game went to extra time.
Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe was initially shown a straight red soon after for a lunging tackle on Longstaff, however Chris Kavanagh soon downgraded that to a yellow after being sent to the monitor by VAR. A fair call, but it came back to haunt us.
After having the red overturned, you just knew it would be Smith-Rowe to give Arsenal and extra-time lead, with him finally beating Dubravka from the angle after Clark dithered on the ball in a bad area. A crushing blow and a tough one to take for the Irishman, who had been one of our best players prior to his costly error.
A few minutes later and the tie was well and truly put to bed, with Tierney getting in behind – not for the first time – and setting up Aubameyang to tap in.
A disappointing defeat and another cup exit.
That’s what you get for failing to take your chances!