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Arsenal close in on Champions League spot after beating Newcastle

PUBLISHED: 21:53 28 April 2014 | UPDATED: 08:08 29 April 2014

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with teammate Olivier Giroud

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with teammate Olivier Giroud

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Arsenal 3 Newcastle Utd 0

Mesut Ozil scored one and set up another as Arsenal cruised past a poor Newcastle side and moved closer to sealing a fourth-place finish.

The German midfielder was back to his best form at the Emirates, netting the Gunners’ second goal and setting up Olivier Giroud for the third after Laurent Koscielny had opened the scoring.

It was Koscielny’s goal against Newcastle on the final day of last season that confirmed his side’s place in the Champions League qualifiers – and Arsenal will make certain of repeating that feat this time if they beat West Brom on Sunday.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action during the first quarter of the game as Newcastle defended doggedly to negate the piercing raids of Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey.

Ozil had a pop at goal after Tim Krul punched out an awkward cross from Cazorla and left himself stranded in the process – while, at the other end, Wojciech Szczesny was virtually a spectator.

Moussa Sissoko briefly threatened as he won the ball from a throw-in and brushed off both Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, but then aimed for the top corner and got nowhere near.

And the deadlock was finally broken on 26 minutes after Sissoko hauled down Giroud and Cazorla’s free-kick caught the Magpies defence out, falling for Koscielny to tuck in from close range.

The Frenchman’s goal acted as a catalyst for Arsenal to seize control and Krul twice denied Lukas Podolski in quick succession, racing out to turn the German’s shot wide and then clawing away his firm header from the resulting corner.

Szczesny was finally called into action to keep out a swerving 30-yarder from Cheick Tiote before the Gunners confirmed their superiority with a second goal three minutes from the break.

Giroud timed his run well as he chased Arteta’s through ball, but he was foiled by a double save from Krul before the rebound fell for Ozil to tap in at the far post.

Cazorla might have extended Arsenal’s lead either side of the interval, first with a drive that was smartly saved by Krul and then a first-time volley that dipped just over the bar.

There were occasional whiffs of danger for the Gunners when the pacy Loic Remy broke clear, but Koscielny came to the rescue with some tidy defensive work.

Arsenal almost seemed to be toying with their opponents and their third goal duly arrived on 66 minutes as Ozil exchanged passes with Ramsey and crossed for Giroud to score with a bullet header.

Soon afterwards Ozil glided down the left flank again and crossed low for Podolski, but Newcastle were spared further torment as his effort grazed the side netting.

With the points secured, Arsene Wenger rang the changes and one of his replacements, Tomas Rosicky, went down under the challenge of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, but referee Neil Swarbrick refused the penalty appeal.

It made little difference to the hapless Geordies, who have now slumped to six defeats in a row – or to Arsenal, whose spot in the Champions League qualifying round is almost assured.

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey (Rosicky 74); Cazorla, Ozil (Flamini 74), Podolski; Giroud (Sanogo 84).

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