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Men's Football Steve Bruce begins Newcastle tenure with a defeat at home to Arsenal

STEVE BRUCE suffered a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal in his first game in charge of Newcastle United at St James’ Park.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half strike was enough for the visitors to secure a sixth win in seven games on Tyneside. They also equalled their number of clean sheets away from home last season on the opening day.

On a sobering day for Bruce, he admitted it was a disappointing manner to lose the game but said he was encouraged by his side’s defending overall and refused to be too critical.

“The disappointing thing for us all is to lose it the way we did, with a mistake,” he said.

“But I can’t remember our goalkeeper making a save before that and against Arsenal that is quite remarkable.

“I understand there is going to be criticism, that is part of the game. But we’ve played against a very good Arsenal side and restricted them. 

“I think it would be wrong to criticise because we had a go in the last 15 minutes.”

The new era began under a cloud of planned boycotts from fans protesting at owner Mike Ashley and the departure of much-loved former boss Rafael Benitez. The official attendance was 47,635; while it may not have had the desired effect on the day, the result and warnings it brings will do little to ease fan unrest.

Newcastle started with purpose. Miguel Almiron pushed up to join the man who replaced him as the Magpies’ record signing, Joelinton, at every opportunity.

The first real chance of the game went to the home side. Isaac Hayden picked up a loose ball and fed Matt Ritchie, whose cross was flashed wide by Joelinton. Jonjo Shelvey then hit the post, before Almiron was booked for a dive in the area. 

At the other end, Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot over the bar from inside the area. Again, though, Joelinton squandered a good chance on the half hour mark, shooting straight at Bernd Leno from the edge of the box.

Aubameyang saw a shot blocked well by Martin Dubravka after a lovely Gunners break, but Unai Emery’s men struggled to find their rhythm in the first half.

Just shy of the hour mark, the Gabonese striker opened the scoring. Stretched out of position, Newcastle afforded him too much space and a little dink was all it took for him to beat Dubravka.

New Magpies signing Allan Saint-Maximin was introduced soon after and showed a few glimpses of his talent but in truth, Newcastle looked flat and disorganised once they conceded, and they couldn’t find the rhythm of the first half again.

The Gunners, who themselves brought on summer buys Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli, were gifted the victory without getting out of second gear.

Emery felt his side deserved to win the match, having stayed compact throughout.

He said that the clean sheet was great “but first I want to win and score. We dominated the game and stayed compact for the whole time. The balance offensively and defensively meant we deserved it.”

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