Newcastle United’s mini-revival was brought to an abrupt end at St James’s Park this afternoon by Arsenal who won 2-0 thanks to goals from Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The defeat ended a four-game unbeaten run which had seen the club ease its relegation concerns.
A win over Arsenal would have all but secured the club’s Premier League status with four games to go, but Newcastle were never in this game, despite the return of Callum Wilson to the starting XI.
It was like a training fixture for Mikel Arteta’s side, who were dominant in every department despite a gruelling midweek trip to Spain for a European fixture.
Fortunately for United, the result changes little in terms of survival – the club remains nine points above third-bottom Fulham – but it will alter the mood on Tyneside, which had brightened after an upturn in results last month.
Bruce had only made one change, but it was a hugely-significant one. Wilson was handed his first start since February 6 after fully recovering from a hamstring injury.
Wilson replaced Joelinton in the starting XI, and United’s head coach, without the ineligible Joe Willock, also recalled fit-again Fabian Schar to his bench along with Matty Longstaff and Elliot Anderson.
For the second successive game, Newcastle got off to a poor start. David Luiz played a sixth-minute ball up to the left to Hector Bellerin, whose low cross was scuffed by Aubameyang. The ball spun to Elneny, who struck a first-time shot which beat Martin Dubravka.
United had conceded a third-minute goal against Liverpool at Anfield eight days earlier, but had claimed a point thanks to a 95th-minute strike from Willock, who was watching from the stand.
This time, there was to be no late comeback.
United had spells of possession after going behind, but chances were few and far between against an organised Arsenal team, though Allan Saint-Maximin, such an influence on the pitch since returning from injury early last month, did force a save from Matt Ryan in the 19th minute with a dipping shot.
Dubravka stopped a long-range shot from Granit Zhaka at the other end as the half-hour mark approached, and Almiron headed an Elneny effort off the line from the resulting corner.
Arsenal ended the half on top after a dominant period which will have left fans watching at home wondering at the break if the club’s revival was over.
Bruce opted against a half-time change, and there was no change in gear from a lacklustre United. The visitors had flown directly to Newcastle from Spain following their Europa League defeat to Villarreal on Thursday night, but it was the home side which lacked energy.
Saint-Maximin and Wilson were peripheral figures as Arsenal controlled the game. It was only a matter of time before they got a second, and it came in the 66th minute from a flying kick from Aubameyang, once a United target, from a right-wing cross from Gabriel Martinelli.
Bruce sent on Joelinton and Schar for Almiron and Federico Fernandez in the 72nd minute, and Dwight Gayle was fielded for the final few minutes, but Newcastle just couldn’t get on the front foot.
Schar was sent off for a late lunge, and will sit out the club’s next three games.