Premier League: Newcastle 0 Arsenal 1
By Football News
Arsenal secured their place in next season's UEFA Champions League with a 1-0 win over Newcastle on Sunday.
Laurent Koscielny proved to be the hero for Arsenal as he fired acrobatically past Steve Harper from close range after latching on to the end of a Theo Walcott free-kick to book the Emirates Stadium outfit's place in Europe's top club competition next term.
That proved to be enough for the Gunners as they held off a spirited fightback from the hosts to claim the points.
Newcastle made two changes from the team that secured safety against QPR last weekend, with Steven Taylor coming in for Mike Williamson and goalkeeper Steve Harper making his final appearance for the club in place of the suspended Rob Elliot.
Arsene Wenger's side remained unchanged following their win over Wigan, but Olivier Giroud returned to the squad following suspension.
The London outfit made the better start to the game, but it was the hosts who had the first clear chance, Papiss Cisse firing over after latching on to a low cross from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Arsenal had their first opportunity as Koscielny headed wide from a corner at the near post.
Newcastle displayed good spirit, and the visitors' dominance soon faded, as Cisse and Yoan Gouffran both squandered half-chances.
Wenger's men suffered a blow midway through the first half when Mikel Arteta was forced off with a calf problem to be replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The contest developed into something of a war of attrition thereafter, with both sides enjoying spells of possession without creating any real goalscoring opportunities before the interval.
Arsenal, though, could have been ahead just a minute into the second period, Harper making a strong save from Walcott after Newcastle had carelessly given the ball away in their own half.
That chance proved to be a pointer to Arsenal's opener, as Koscielny latched on to Lukas Podolski's flick-on from Walcott's right-wing free-kick after 52 minutes to volley home.
Pardew's charges were not deterred by falling behind and continued to create chances, with Gouffran going closest as he failed to connect with a near-post ball from Mathieu Debuchy before Hatem Ben Arfa fired wide from distance.
Arsenal were able to hold on without much difficulty for the remainder of the second half, but they should have added a second when Walcott broke free to hit the post late on - with the ball rebounding safely back into Harper's grasp.
Ultimately, that miss proved inconsequential though, as Wenger's men held on to continue the French manager's streak of ensuring UEFA Champions League football in every year of his tenure.