Olivier Giroud’s second-half strike helped Arsenal return to the summit of the Barclays Premier League table as Everton kept their sight on European competition with a 2-1 win against Southampton on Sunday.
Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
Arsene Wenger rested Mesut Ozil for the trip to St. James’ Park while Jack Wilshere returned to the squad after missing two games for his offensive gesture towards Manchester City fans in his last match.
It was Olivier Giroud who ended his seven match goalscoring drought against a Newcastle side, who has been impressive so far in the ongoing season.
The Magpies came into the game with two wins on the trot- scoring eight goals and conceding only one. They got off well in the first-half but went behind a minute after the half-hour mark when Frenchman Giroud broke the deadlock.
Theo Walcott floated a free-kick straight down the middle of the hosts’ box and Giroud diverted the ball past Tim Krul with a slight touch.
“It is nice to score, it’s been a few games so it’s important to come back. It was a tough game against my fellow Frenchies and it was important to get the win,” said Giroud.
Walcott had an opportunity to make it 2–0 few minutes later when his initial shot was saved by Tim Krul and his follow-up cleared off the line by Mathieu Debuchy before Giroud dragged the rebound wide.
The victory takes Wenger’s men back to the top with 42 points, a point ahead of second placed Man City and five points ahead of Chelsea, who hosts Liverpool in Sunday’s late afternoon clash.
Everton 2-1 Southampton
Romelu Lukaku scored the match winner for Everton to save goalkeeper Joel Robbles from having the worst memories of his full league debut.
The Toofees second choice goalie, in for the suspended Tim Howard, gifted Gaston Ramirez a 71st minute equaliser after Seamus Coleman had opened scoring for the hosts.
Robles failed to stop the ball from going down the middle of the goal and it dipped under his despairing dive.
But Lukaku was in hand for the rescue when Steven Pienaar raided the left flank and picked out James McCarthy who laid a pass to big Belgian to hammer home from 12 yards.
“Today we played well and showed great mentality and hopefully we can continue it on New Year’s Day (away at Stoke City),” said Everton match-winner Lukaku.
The victory allowed Everton to bounce back from Boxing Day’s disappointing loss to Sunderland and take them to 37 points, five points adrift league leaders Arsenal.
Leighton Baines completed his first game on his return to Roberto Martinez’s starting lineup since breaking his toe on November 23 in the Merseyside derby.
“It was important to bounce back- we want to finish as high uop as possible and if we show the same consistency and performance, we can improve on last season,” Lukaku added.