Barton sparks opening day fury
Joey Barton was at the centre of attention as Newcastle drew 0-0 with 10-man Arsenal.
Last Updated: 13/08/11 10:44pm
After a summer of Twitter and transfer-lists, it was almost inevitable that Joey Barton would make himself the centre of attention as Newcastle and Arsenal drew 0-0 at St James' Park on the opening day of the new Premier League season.
The midfielder was picked by manager Alan Pardew despite being made available on a free transfer by the club for a controversial summer when he has publicly criticised officials and members of the hierarchy.
But Barton's mentality will again come under intense scrutiny after he caused a mass scuffle in the second half, which resulted in the Arsenal debutant being shown a straight red card by referee Peter Walton.
Barton was already irate after being stamped on by Alex Song, who avoided a red card, in an earlier incident and he accused Gervinho of diving in the Newcastle penalty area.
The former Manchester City man then fell to the floor claiming he was punched by Gervinho. Replays showed it was a slap, but it was still an ugly flash point in what was an otherwise uneventful contest.
Transfer-listed Barton only started the game after assuring Pardew that he was fully committed to the cause.
The home fans among a crowd of 46,894 left reasonably satisfied, unlike their travelling counterparts, who repeatedly implored Arsene Wenger to "spend some money" after a toothless start to the new campaign.
The corresponding fixture last season demonstrated the best and the worst of both teams as the Gunners raced into a 4-0 lead by half-time, only to succumb to a stunning fightback to allow the Magpies to snatch a point.
In that respect, Pardew will have been delighted to see his side reach the break with their clean sheet intact, although perhaps not with the pattern of play which had seen the visitors dominate.
Even without Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the starting line-up as speculation mounted over their futures at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal moved the ball confidently with Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky particularly prominent.
Gervinho, one of the men close to the top of the list of forwards Pardew tried to sign during the summer - the vacancy at St James' Park remains unfilled - caused problems for makeshift left-back Ryan Taylor as he repeatedly pulled to a wide right position.
However, although he linked up with Robin van Persie on numerous occasions, Wenger's men were unable to break down a defence well-marshalled by new skipper Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor to the extent that keeper Krul, preferred to Steve Harper and Fraser Forster, did not have a single save of note to make during the first 45 minutes.
Rosicky steered an early shot wide of the Dutchman's far post, but despite all the pressure, his only anxious moment came 14 minutes before the break when he spilled the Czech Republic international's corner under Laurent Koscielny's challenge and Danny Simpson had to clear off the line.
In fairness, opposite number Wojciech Szczesny was similarly under-employed as strikers Shola Ameobi and Demba Ba saw too little of the ball to cause any damage.
He got down well to collect Simpson's deflected 17th minute cross and Jonas Gutierrez smashed a 22nd-minute volley well wide, but the Gunners' goal rarely came under any real threat during the first half.
Pardew changed both personnel and formation after the break when he withdrew Ba and replaced him with another debutant, Gabriel Obertan, who lined up in a five-man midfield behind lone striker Ameobi.
Kieran Gibbs and Rosicky picked up bookings in quick succession as the game restarted at a high tempo, but it was the visitors who came close to breaking the deadlock with 55 minutes gone.
Gutierrez was penalised for a challenge on Rosicky wide on the right and Van Persie sent in a viciously-dipping free-kick which dropped onto the roof of the net with Krul desperately trying to get across.
Yohan Cabaye was unable to make the most of Obertan's back-heeled 61st-minute ball into the box, and Wenger decided to make a change of his own seconds later when he replaced Arshavin with England international Walcott.
The newcomer might have given his side the lead within minutes when he ran onto Aaron Ramsey's through-ball, but he could not beat Krul from close range.
However, the game exploded into controversy with 14 minutes remaining when Barton reacted furiously to what he believed was a dive by Gervinho under Cheick Tiote's challenge inside the box.
The Ivory Coast international lost his cool and slapped Barton in the resulting melee, and referee Peter Walton had little option but to produce a red card.Newcastle might have snatched victory at the death, only for the impressive Koscielny to deny substitute Peter Lovenkrands a close-range header, but that would have been harsh on the visitors, who were nevertheless booed from the pitch.
|Newcastle United||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|1||Shots on Target||2|
|5||Shots off Target||6|