Thomas Vermaelen struck with almost the last kick of the game as Arsenal continued their impressive run with a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium.

Hatem Ben Arfa had opened the scoring with a fine solo effort for the visitors, but Robin Van Persie equalised within a frantic first-half minute. Arsenal dominated large periods of the game and deserved their winner, although the manner in which it came will make the travelling Toon Army’s trip home that bit longer.

Alan Pardew made two changes to the side that grabbed a last-minute goal of their own against Sunderland last week, with Ben Arfa starting on the right wing in place of the injured Ryan Taylor and Gabriel Obertan supporting Demba Ba in place of Papiss Cisse.

Some unsavoury scenes surrounded the final actions of the game though, when Tim Krul and Van Persie – who had been at each other’s throats throughout the game – exchanged words and had to be separated by their team mates and were both eventually booked.

The game itself was fantastic to watch, with both sides happy to play with a high tempo, although it did suit the home side more. Theo Walcott was at his majestic best on Arsenal’s right wing, and almost supplied Van Persie with a goal inside the first two minutes. Van Persie found space in the box and when Walcott’s cross came in, it looked like the Dutch striker would convert with ease, although he miscued and allowed Newcastle to escape a disastrous start.

Walcott was causing Davide Santon a world of problems and looked likely to create something every time he had the ball but Van Persie, for once, took his time to settle into the game and wasn’t at his best early on.

The bright start from Arsenal looked likely to lead to a goal, but it was Newcastle who struck first. Ben Arfa found space on the right and when Obertan found his fellow countryman, Ben Arfa was able to cut inside Kieran Gibbs and whip a vicious left-foot effort past Wojciech Szczesny.

With the Geordie fans still in raptures over taking a surprise lead, Arsenal hit back instantly. Walcott again got the better of Santon and whipped in a cross which Van Persie controlled beautifully, before firing past the onrushing Krul. The equaliser was clocked at 53 seconds after the Magpies took the lead.

The rest of the first half didn’t see too many chances for either side, only some disappointing attacking from Obertan and more excellent wide play from Walcott.

Davide Santon was mercifully substituted at half-time to save him from further embarrassment against Walcott, with James Perch replacing the Italian. The former Nottingham Forest defender fared slightly better against the resurgent winger, although Walcott still looked like the type of player the country thought he could be when he burst on the scene as a fresh-faced 17-year old.

Arsenal controlled the second 45 minutes, with Robin Van Persie continuing his amazing recent form with a number of efforts on Krul’s goal. The two Dutchmen traded blows – metaphorically at least – with the goalkeeper coming out on top for the most part.

Tomas Rosicky had the best chance to put the Gunners ahead though, when he got on the end of one of Walcott’s crosses, although he badly miscued when well placed.

When Krul expertly clawed away Van Persie’s latest effort, this time a header which was heading under the crossbar, it looked like Newcastle were going to be able to hang on to their point, but late drama was to deny them.

Danny Simpson’s throw in deep in Arsenal’s half was won back by the Gunners and allowed them to counter attack, with bodies being thrown forward to try and grab a last-gasp winner. It ultimately paid off when Vermaelen surged into the middle to connect with Walcott’s perfect cross and send the travelling Geordie contingent away from the capital with no points, something they are used to of late.

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