LONDON: Arsenal are doing their best albeit perhaps too late. A 2-0 victory away to fast-rising Newcastle kept them one point behind Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

The Gunners have played one game more than City and have a vastly inferior goal difference so victory was essential. It was achieved with one goal in the first half through captain Martin Odegaard and a second-half own goal. Arsenal and City return to league action next Sunday with the champions at Everton and the Gunners home to Brighton.

Inbetween City risk suffering added mental and physical pressure as they take on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday. City also have the FA Cup at the back of their minds. Arsenal are certainly not out of the title race yet.

Newcastle kicked off with every reason to be confident in the duel between Saudi state money and capital American investment. They had won eight of their previous nine league games including the last three by an aggregate score of 13-3.

The clash between third and second in the table was almost resolved within the opening minutes. Newcastle’s first raid saw Joe Willock shoot against a post and then Jacob Murphy forced a diving save from Aaron Ramsdale. Moments later referee Chris Kavanagh went to his pitch-side screen to refuse a penalty claim for handball against Jakub Kiwior.

Arsenal capitalised on their escapes in the 14th minute with their first serious attack. Newcastle’s attacking ambition meant they left Arsenal captain Odegaard unmarked to shoot low past keeper’s Nick Pope left hand from 25 metres.

The manner of Arsenal’s response illustrated how rapidly the youngest team in the Premier League has matured this season. Not only were they able to resist the pressure of both the noisy home crowd and one of the most-improved teams in the league but they were also ruthless enough to take their first opportunity.

One of Arsenal’s great strengths is a passing ability which is surpassed only by Manchester City. A 14-pass move should have been rewarded in the 21st minute but Gabriel Martinelli’s breakthrough was foiled by Pope. The goalkeeper then stood up brilliantly and bravely to foil a breakthrough by Bukayo Saka.

Arsenal grew more dangerous as the first half ran on. Jorginho and Odegaard are building an important understanding in midfield and Newcastle were unable to control them. Jorginho, an increasingly important January acquisition from Chelsea, also turned up in defence when Newcastle broke free down the right wing.

Odegaard could even have killed the game just before halftime but Pope stuck out a leg to block the Norwegian’s close-range shot.

Newcastle started the second half with the fire to match the first half. Similarly, Alexander Isak headed against a upright and then Fabian Schar was foiled by a good save from Pope.

Again, Arsenal not only survived but scored on the counter-attack. In the 70th minute the feisty Gabriel Jesus sent Martinelli free down the left and his cross was jabbed into the Newcastle goal by Schar.

United beaten

A blunder by goalkeeper David De Gea loosened Manchester United’s grip on the final Champions League place as they were beaten 1-0 at West Ham.

De Gea let Said Benrahma’s hopeful shot from 20 yards slip over his glove to condemn Erik Ten Hag’s side to back-to-back defeats.

They now lie just one point ahead of a rapidly advancing Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand.

But an eighth defeat on the road this season could prove as costly for the visitors as it was priceless for West Ham, who climbed seven points above the relegation zone and are surely now safe.

De Gea’s evening began inauspiciously when his poor clearance flew to the feet of Declan Rice, whose run into the area was only curtailed by a last-ditch tackle from Wout Weghorst.

Marcus Rashford curled over for the visitors while Bruno Fernandes and Antony fizzed low shots narrowly wide.

Christian Eriksen’s effort also floated too high before Rashford cut inside Thilo Kehrer and crashed his shot against the outside of the near post.

The goal arrived in the 29th minute and it is not one De Gea will want to see again.

Benrahma had few options as he drove forward with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw for company.

The Algerian tried his luck from 20 yards but his shot lacked any real menace and De Gea should have made a routine save.

But the ball seemed to spin away from the Spaniard as he attempted to push it away and rolled into the net.