Arsenal’s Champions League hopes suffered a major blow as Newcastle powered their way to a deserved win at a raucous St James’ Park.
Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes condemned the Gunners to a costly 2-0 defeat with an 85th-minute strike after Ben White’s own goal had put the Magpies ahead in front of a crowd of 52,274.
As a result, Arsenal will go into Sunday’s final round of fixtures two points behind their North London rival Tottenham, who are fourth on the table and with their fate out of their own hands.
Victory was no more than Eddie Howe’s side deserved as they bounced back from successive defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City to take their tally to 46 points, the most they have collected since returning to the Premier League in 2017.
Arsenal, were first to threaten when Granit Xhaka fed Eddie Nketiah, who cut inside from the left, but saw his right-foot shot blocked.
Callum Wilson’s pace made life difficult for Arsenal and White had to block a Sean Longstaff cross and a Joelinton shot within seconds as the home side pushed for the opener.
Bukayo Saka threatened on 21 minutes and the England international’s second strike forced keeper Martin Dubravka into another save before Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale produced a solid 37th-minute stop from Allan Saint-Maximin.
Martin Odegaard then flashed the ball across the Magpies’ penalty area, but the Gunners fell behind on 55 minutes.
Saint-Maximin played Joelinton into space down the left and he crossed to the near post, where White could only guide the ball into his own net.
As the visitors chased an equaliser, Wilson sent a 63rd-minute snapshot just over, Ramsdale palmed away Jacob Murphy’s shot and was relieved to see Wilson’s late lob from 40 yards drop just wide.
The keeper dived bravely at Wilson’s feet with five minutes remaining, but the rebound fell perfectly for Guimaraes, who wasted no time to seal the points.
Mikel Arteta was fumed after witnessing his team throwing away a whole season’s hard work in a woeful 2-0 defeat at St. James’ Park.
With his team’s Champions League dram almost over, Arteta could not hide his exasperation anymore.
“Normally, I will always defend my players. Not tonight, it is too difficult. We didn’t compete. We never got into the game. We lost every duel. They were comfortably better than us.
“I am incredibly disappointed. It’s a very painful one. It was in our hands, it’s not in our hands now. We have to put our head down and swallow all the poison that we feel,” He told a press conference
Arteta’s anger was echoed by Granit Xhaka, who pulled no punches during an explosive post-game interview. The Arsenal midfielder declared the Gunners didn’t deserve a spot in Europe’s showpiece event next season.
“From the first minute to the 90th we didn’t deserve to be on the pitch today,” he told Sky Sports. “What happened was a disaster performance and like this you don’t deserve to play Champions League, you don’t even deserve to play Europa League. It’s very hard to take at the moment. I don’t know why we’re not doing what the coaches ask for.”
“If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home. It doesn’t matter the age. If you’re not ready or you’re nervous, stay on the bench, stay at home, don’t come here. We knew this game was maybe the most important for us but, with a performance like this, it’s not acceptable.”
Morocco Knock Out Spain, Book Quarter-Final Spot
Morocco beat Spain on penalties to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history on Tuesday after the match finished 0-0.
The African side won the shoot-out 3-0 after Spain failed to convert all three of their spot kicks.
Spain coach Luis Enrique had claimed his players prepared by taking 1,000 penalties as homework but Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets all missed from the spot and Madrid-born Hakimi dinked his home to the delight of Morocco’s raucous support.
Walid Regragui’s side will face Portugal or Switzerland in what is uncharted territory for them, with their previous best a last-16 exit in 1986.
Spain had been hoping they could repeat their 2010 World Cup triumph after reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020, where they were also beaten on penalties by Italy.
The teams were closely matched through a nail-biting clash, with Spain having more of the ball but Morocco creating the better openings, few though they were.
Luis Enrique trialled his third right-back of the tournament in Marcos Llorente, and benched the team’s top scorer Alvaro Morata for Marco Asensio, after the shock defeat by Japan.
Spain monopolised the ball, with Morocco’s fans furiously whistling with their side out of possession.
Morocco, who are the last African and Arab side left standing at the first World Cup held in an Arab country, were intensely backed and their fans greatly outnumbered Spain’s.
With La Roja playing in a pale blue second strip, they resembled the away team on hostile territory.
Gavi, who at 18 years and 123 days old became the youngest player to start a World Cup knockout game since Brazil great Pele in 1958, rose to the occasion.
The Barcelona midfield terrier was at his most intense, smashing into challenges left, right and centre, even diving to make one with his head.
Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou tipped a Gavi strike on to the crossbar, though it would have been ruled offside, while Asensio drilled into the side-netting, although Spain created little.
Regragui’s side sat deep defensively and threatened on the counter, with Unai Simon beating away a long range effort from Noussair Mazraoui.
Sofiane Boufal, who bypassed Llorente like sand slipping through the Spaniard’s fingers early on, carved the best chance of the half for Nayef Aguerd, who headed inches over.
Bounou pummelled away a Dani Olmo strike from an angle as the tension cranked up after the break.
Luis Enrique raged at Rodri for choosing the wrong option on the ball, and withdrew the dogged and muddied Gavi for Carlos Soler.
He threw Morata on too, giving Spain a focal point up top, but they struggled to supply him as Morocco sat deeper and deeper.
Another substitute, Nico Williams did find the Atletico Madrid striker on one occasion but the angle was too tight and he scraped a shot across the face of goal.
Bounou made a fine save from Olmo’s free-kick as it almost snuck all the way through, with Spain finally creating stronger chances as the game frayed in the moments before extra-time.
Morocco responded in the additional period by finding stability and testing Simon, who made a fine save with his legs to deny Walid Cheddira after he broke in down Spain’s left flank.
Despite heavy pressure by Spain in the final moments before penalties, they could not trouble the Sevilla goalkeeper again, with Pablo Sarabia clipping the outside of the post, although he might have been offside.
Having been sent on apparently for the shoot-out, Sarabia struck the post again from Spain’s first penalty, after Abdelhamid Sabiri had sent Morocco ahead.
Soler and Busquets missed, while Hakim Ziyech scored, before Hakimi netted against his birth country to ignite wild celebrations.
Germany Slump To Japan In Another World Cup Shocker
Spain Ignite World Cup Bid By Smashing Seven Past Costa Rica
Spain shredded Costa Rica 7-0 on Wednesday in a brutal destruction in their Group E opener which launched their bid to lift a second World Cup.
Avoiding the fate of giants Argentina and group rivals Germany, who lost 2-1 to Japan earlier on, Luis Enrique’s fancied side sparkled at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, dominating possession and taking their chances mercilessly.
Ferran Torres netted twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata were also on the scoresheet for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in an emphatic romp.
In the past the 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for profligacy but all three forwards Luis Enrique selected netted in the first half to pay back his trust in them.
The coach placed Asensio at false nine, flanked by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.
The coach opted to deploy Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, alongside club team-mate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating his team would monopolise the ball.
It took only 11 minutes for La Roja to open the scoring, with Gavi stabbing a pass forward for Olmo to receive in the area and the RB Leipzig winger taking one sublime touch to turn and another to stroke the ball gently past Keylor Navas.
Costa Rica, who were a surprise package at the 2014 World Cup, beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top their group, were sliced apart again for the second goal 10 minutes later.
Jordi Alba’s low drilled cross was rammed home by Real Madrid forward Asensio past his former team-mate Navas, who might have done more to keep it out.
Torres stroked home from the penalty spot after Alba was fouled by Oscar Duarte –- a soft call on a hard night for Los Ticos, who were never in the game and failed to muster a shot at goal.
Barcelona forward Torres capitalised on more slack defending to fire the fourth past Navas early in the second half.
Luis Enrique was able to take off the effervescent Pedri and Torres before the hour mark in order to rest them for Sunday’s clash with Germany, and handed teenage Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde his debut.
The 19-year-old roared up the pitch in the build-up to Spain’s fifth goal, with substitute Morata crossing for Gavi to drill home with aplomb.
Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third youngest goalscorer at a World Cup at 18 years and 110 days old, after Mexico’s Manuel Rosas and record holder Pele.
Soler and Morata then got in on the act with stoppage-time strikes to pile further misery on Costa Rica and help Spain flex their muscles in a perfect opening match in Qatar.
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