Newcastle draw earns breathing space for Allardyce

The latest wonder striker from Emmanuel Adebayor was not enough for an under-strength Arsenal to claim all three points as Newcastle hit back to secure a 1-1 draw with the unbeaten Premier League leaders.

Steven Taylor’s second-half equaliser earned some valuable breathing space for the under-pressure Sam Allardyce after Newcastle fell behind to Adebayor’s stunning early goal in Newcastle.

After the public vote of confidence issued by the players in the manager earlier this week, Allardyce was no doubt happy his squad backed their words with deeds, with a spirited display in stark contrast to their previous two abject home defeats.

However, after picking up just a second point in six games, there is still much work to be done to arrest the current slump.

All the same, the standing ovation afforded those in black and white at the death suggests Allardyce’s men have gone a long way to winning back the support of fans, who had begun to question their side’s commitment.

Despite being pegged back by Taylor’s expertly-taken first goal of the season on the hour, Arsenal can still be satisfied with what could prove to be a valuable point at the end of the season.

It is one which stretches their advantage over their nearest challengers, Manchester United, to four points, after racking up a 22nd straight league game unbeaten, a run which dates back to April.

Newcastle couldn’t have wished for a worse start as they found themselves behind inside four minutes against the depleted leaders, who were without five influential first-team players through injury.

The goal was of the hosts’ own making as Charles N’Zogbia, again played out of position at left back by Allardyce, gave the ball away in a dangerous position on the corner of the Newcastle area.

Emmanuel Eboue accepted possession to swing in an inviting centre from Arsenal’s right, which Adebayor controlled with his chest before volleying a fierce shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards to maintain Arsenal’s record of scoring in every league game this season.

Newcastle spurned an opportunity to restore parity within 60 seconds as Obafemi Martins headed narrowly wide after rising to meet a James Milner cross eight yards out.

And it was the hosts who carved out the more meaningful chances before the break, as Manuel Almunia was forced to save smartly on his line when Newcastle captain Geremi curled a low 25-yard free-kick round the wall.

Taylor came even closer to an equaliser 10 minutes before the interval, with a header from N’Zogbia’s corner that the back-tracking Almunia palmed on to an upright.

Replays suggested that strong appeals for handball by Lassana Diarra in his efforts to complete the clearance from his station on the post were unfounded.

Newcastle’s persistence paid off when they deservedly drew level 15 minutes after the break.

Joey Barton’s tenacity enabled the midfielder to block Eduardo Da Silva’s clearance, allowing fullback Habib Beye to send over a dangerous cross from the right.

Alan Smith, arriving at the near post, applied an important flick, which allowed the ball to reach Taylor, who beat Almunia with a low shot that went in off the post from 12 yards, leaving Arsenal with just one win in their last seven visits to Tyneside.

Newcastle dominated the remainder of the contest, but failed to create any further clear-cut chances as they were forced to keep numbers back to prevent Arsenal from hitting them on the break.

That almost happened at the death, and N’Zogbia, the last defender, was lucky to escape a red card as he hauled Adebayor down with the striker racing through on goal. — Sapa-AFP

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