ALAN Pardew said Newcastle United were down – but not out – after their 2-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium.
Pardew’s side were undone by a 95th-minute goal from Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen last night.
The strike broke a stubborn resistence from Newcastle, who had briefly led in North London through a 14th-minute Hatem Ben Arfa goal.
Robin van Persie levelled less than a minute later, and Newcastle spent the second half on the back foot, with Arsene Wenger’s team breaking forward time and again in search of a winning goal.
The breakthrough came deep in injury time when Vermaelen, unmarked in the six-yard box, gratefully prodded home a knockdown from a Theo Walcott cross.
“Forget how the game went, because we could have offered a bit more threat than we did, they were bang in form tonight, Arsenal,” Pardew said.
“It was really hard to stay the course, and to get to 94 minutes, it’s galling to lose.”
Pardew refused to blame right-back Simpson for the goal, which came from his “area”.
He instead praised the efforts of his players, who came within seconds of claiming what would have been a remarkable point.
However, Pardew admitted his team were far from their best as an attacking force, havning tested Wojciech Szczesny just three times.
“Poor old Danny Simpson couldn’t move, and in the end, it was in his area,” said Pardew. “He just couldn’t get back.
“The most important thing was that we came here, put a real proper effort in, and look organised, which we did. As I say, maybe in possession we could’ve done a little bit more, but we gave everything.”
The Gunners were dominating from the start, but the home crowd were stunned in to silence in the 15th minute when the Magpies took the lead.
Vermaelen erroneously passed to Tiote and the ball found its way to the right flank, where Ben Arfa cut inside and fired a precise finish past Wojciech Szczesny.
The home crowd were on their feet less than a minute later, however, as Van Persie came to the rescue.
Walcott galloped down the right after being freed by Rosicky and he crossed for the Dutchman, who shrugged off Williamson’s challenge before slotting home.
Rosicky missed a glorious chance to put Arsenal ahead. He exchanged passes with Walcott, and found acres of space in the box but he mis-hit so badly that his shot went out for a throw.
It seemed as if Arsenal were not going to find their way through as another chance to win the game escaped them.
Krul came to Newcastle’s rescue in the final minute, palming over a brilliant header from Vermaelen with an acrobatic save which looked to have saved the game.
Arsene Wenger thought the game was over, sitting with his head in his hands, but Walcott’s 95th-minute cross dropped in to Vermaelen’s path and he finished from close range to send the home crowd in to ecstasy.
Disappointing scenes followed as Van Persie and Krul squared up in the aftermath of the goal. Both were booked and Krul had to be restrained after the final whistle.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky (Ramsey), Arteta, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Gervinho), Song, Van Persie. Subs: Fabianski, Santos, Djourou, Benayoun, Chamakh.
Newcastle United: Krul, Coloccini, Santon (Perch), Simpson, Williamson, Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Gutierrez, Tiote (Guthrie), Obertan (Sh Ameobi), Ba. Subs: Elliot, Gosling, Vuckic, Cisse.
Ref: H Webb Att: 60,095.