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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 23:03 GMT
Magpies match Arsenal
Laurent Robert celebrates his equaliser at St james' Park
Robert celebrates his equaliser - but then saw red
Newcastle 1-1 Arsenal

Anyone who genuinely believes the Premiership title race is a marathon and not a sprint should have been at St James' Park to witness this breathless encounter.

Newcastle and Arsenal produced a dazzling display of football at electric speed.

And the dead-heat finish left the Gunners still three points clear of Manchester United and eight ahead of Sir Bobby Robson's Magpies.

Key incidents
35 mins: Henry scores his 18th Premiership goal of the season
53 mins: Robert levels for Magpies
58 mins: Robert sent off for two bookings in quick succession

Thierry Henry's excellent first-half goal, his 18th Premiership strike of the season, put the Gunners ahead before Laurent Robert's crisp equaliser.

Robert then saw red for two bookings in quick succession, but Newcastle still deservedly made their point in a fiery finish.

For the first 15 minutes, the home side more than matched the league leaders for pace.

Alan Shearer saw a poked shot brilliantly kept out by David Seaman, who was also in the right place to stop a blistering Shearer volley following Nolberto Solano's cross.

But Newcastle's early pressure wilted as Arsenal kicked on.

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira can't stop Laurent Robert in full flight
Goalscorer Robert skips past Vieira
Patrick Vieira saw a header nodded onto his own bar by Solano on the goal-line, Robert Pires heading the rebound over when it looked easier to score.

And the theme of headers was continued in remarkable fashion on 32 minutes.

Henry's cross was flicked towards his own goal by Titus Bramble, only for Magpies keeper Shay Given to crane his neck and instinctively head the ball over his crossbar.

But Newcastle's reprieve lasted only three minutes as Arsenal grabbed the advantage 10 minutes before the break.

We played superbly and at 11 v 11 we just might have edged it

Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson
Newcastle, not for the first time, conceded cheap possession and were swiftly punished.

Pires released Sylvain Wiltord and his neat angled pass allowed Henry to burst clear and evade Given's groping hands to clip into a welcoming net.

But Newcastle somehow found a second wind after half-time as they battled back to level.

Craig Bellamy hinted at the revival when he flashed a shot over the bar and, within a minute, Newcastle were level.

We are consistent and I am happy with the quality of our performance and our spirit

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
Robert ran at the heart of the Arsenal defence, which for once yawned wide open to allow the midfielder to beat Seaman with a clinical left-foot shot.

The goal was sweet for the Frenchman following his much publicised spats with manager Robson this season.

But Robert went from hero to villain as two bookings in as many minutes reduced the Magpies to 10 men.

An ugly challenge on Lauren gave referee Neale Barry little option but to brandish a yellow card.

Alan Shearer (left) and Patrick Vieira exchange words at St James' Park
Shearer and Vieira tangle in the first half
And nor, despite Robson's protestations, did Robert's efforts to twice block Bergkamp's attempts at a quick free-kick.

To their credit, the 10 men refused to settle for a draw and only a fine stoppage time save from Seaman denied Bellamy a deflected winner in an end-to-end finale.

But the champions' resistance put the brakes on Newcastle's proud 11-game winning run at St James' Park as the Premiership's top three ended the weekend as they had started it.



Newcastle: Given, Hughes, O'Brien, Bramble, Bernard, Solano (Speed 45), Jenas, Dyer, Robert, Bellamy, Shearer (Ameobi 90).
Subs Not Used: LuaLua, Caig, Dabizas.

Sent Off: Robert (58).
Booked: Shearer, Robert.

Arsenal: Seaman, Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole, Wiltord (van Bronckhorst 85), Silva (Parlour 85), Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp (Jeffers 78), Henry.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Cygan.

Booked: Lauren, Cole.

Attendance: 52,157

Referee: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Dave Woods
"Plenty of passion and panache"
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
"Overall I'm happy with our performance"
Newcastle boss Sir Bobby Robson
"The sending off could have been handled better"
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