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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 21:57 GMT
Newcastle 0-1 Arsenal
Patrick Vieira (second left) celebrates his goal for Arsenal
Arsenal were made to work hard for the three points by an industrious, injury-hit Newcastle side at St James' Park.

United were unlucky not to be awarded a first-half penalty when Ashley Cole clearly handled in the area.

But on the stroke of half-time, a ricochet fell to Patrick Vieira, whose volley from just outside the box took a deflection to wrong-foot Shay Given.

Newcastle had the better of the second half, but failed to take their chances with Laurent Robert the main culprit.

Robin Van Persie was handed a rare start up front in the absence of the injured Dennis Bergkamp, and the young Dutchman quickly burst into action, having a snap-shot palmed away by Given.

After Newcastle failed to clear the resulting corner, Sol Campbell tried his luck from distance but there was to be no repeat of his match-winning goal against Portsmouth, as he dragged his shot wide.

Newcastle's first serious attack came in the ninth minute when Campbell failed to deal with a bouncing through ball, and Ameobi's curling shot was tipped wide by Manuel Almunia.

At the other end, another dangerous Van Persie corner was headed towards goal by Campbell but headed off the line by Ameobi, while Thierry Henry headed against the post a minute later.

Soon after, Newcastle were out of luck as a blatant handball in the 18-yard box by Cole went unpunished.

Almunia, still preferred to Jens Lehmann in goal, then had to be alert to claim a dangerous Robert cross at the second attempt, as Newcastle came into the game more towards the end of the first half.

Cole was finally shown a yellow card after bringing down Kieron Dyer - but after Newcastle's best spell of the game, Vieira put his side ahead just before the interval.

The ball rebounded kindly to the Gunners skipper 20 yards out - and his dipping shot took a cruel deflection which gave Given no chance, putting the visitors ahead just before the whistle.

Just after the hour mark, Van Persie became the third player to be booked by Bennett, for a late tackle on Taylor.

With Arsenal becalmed, it was Newcastle who looked more like scoring - but Robert overhit a cross from a good position, after beating Lauren to the byeline.

The Cameroon full-back then came off worse after a crunching challenge on Olivier Bernard, and had the indignity of being cautioned while he was lying in agony on a stretcher, before being carried off for treatment.

Another good opportunity fell Newcastle's way when Freddie Ljungberg delayed the taking of a free-kick, which earned himself a yellow card and saw the free-kick moved forward to the edge of the box.

But Robert's dead-ball strike was blasted straight into the Arsenal wall, and the visitors soon moved to stiffen their left-hand side by introducing Gael Clichy in place of Van Persie.

Almunia then had to be alert after the Magpies took a free-kick quickly, only for the profligate Robert to fire his shot straight at the Gunners keeper.

Henry had a quiet game by his standards, but reminded observers of his undoubted ability when he fashioned a chance from nothing late on, but placed his shot wide.

But Robert blazed another of his trademark free-kicks high and wide in stoppage time, leaving Graeme Souness's side with nothing to show for their efforts.

Newcastle: Given, Taylor, Bramble, Hughes, Bernard (N'Zogbia 87), Dyer, Bowyer, Jenas, Robert, Bellamy, Ameobi.
Subs Not Used: Milner, Brittain, Ramage, Harper.

Booked: Taylor.

Arsenal: Almunia, Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Ljungberg, Vieira, Flamini, Pires, Henry, Van Persie (Clichy 76).
Subs Not Used: Fabregas, Senderos, Pennant, Lehmann.

Booked: Cole, Van Persie, Lauren, Ljungberg.

Goals: Vieira 45.

Att: 52,320

Referee: S Bennett (Kent)

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