Arsenal top EPL as Laurent Koscielny strike downs Newcastle United

    Story highlights

    • Arsenal claim narrow victory over Newcastle United
    • Win sees Gunners go top as Leicester falter

    (CNN)Arsenal surged clear at the top of the English Premier League Saturday thanks to a nervy 1-0 win over Newcastle United coupled with second placed Leicester City's scoreless draw at home to Bournemouth.

    Laurent Koscielny was the unlikely hero for Arsenal, scoring the only goal of the game deep into the second period at the Emirates Stadium.
    The French defender stretched to guide countryman Olivier Giroud's headed flick on beyond Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot on 72 minutes.
    But the Gunners were lucky to still be on level terms by the time Koscielny struck.
    Newcastle looked the better team for long spells, with Aleksander Mitrovic, Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum all spurning good chances for the visitors.
    Aleksandar Mitrovic of Newcastle reacts to a missed chance against Arsenal.
    The loss sees Newcastle slip back into the relegation zone, although that was of little concern to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger whose side have now won three out of four games over England's notoriously hectic festive period.
    "It was hard work, but we prepared ourselves mentally," Wenger told BBC Sport after the match.
    "We were not at our best today, but over Christmas in four games we took nine points so we can look back and say we did 75% of our job."
    Joel Campbell of Arsenal celebrates celebrates after Laurent Koscielny Koscielny opened the scoring.
    Arsenal is now two points clear of Leicester which struggled to break down a resilient Bournemouth at the Kingpower Stadium in its Saturday fixture.
    Riyad Mahrez's penalty for the Premier League's surprise package was saved by Artur Boruc after striker Jamie Vardy was felled in the box by Bournemouth's Simon Francis on the hour mark.
    Although Francis saw red for the infraction, Leicester failed to make its numerical advantage count in the remaining half hour.
    Claudio Ranieri's side is now without a win or a goal in its last three fixtures, but the Italian was content that his unheralded team has reached its season goal of notching 40 points (the tally usually required to avoid relegation) so early.
    "A draw is not OK, it is only one point. But it is OK as we have 40 points, which was the goal," Ranieri later told reporters. "It's champagne for my players."
    "We have not scored for three games, but we have had chances. Sometimes everything is right, but now some things are wrong. The performance was good, a fantastic effort."

    Rooney strikes as United win

    Elsewhere in the Premier League Saturday, Wayne Rooney became the second highest scorer in Manchester United and Premier League history as he struck the winner in his side's 2-1 victory over Swansea City.
    The result eases the pressure on under-fire manager Louis Van Gaal who has come in for heavy criticism over his side's lack of goals and stuttering form.
    Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring Manchester United's winning goal Against Swansea.
    A more disgruntled manager Saturday was Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp who accused his side of giving only a 90% performance as it slipped to a 2-0 defeat at West Ham United.
    At the bottom of the table there was a big win for Sunderland which dispatched Aston Villa 3-1 with veteran striker Jermaine Defoe scoring twice.
    A solitary goal from Alexander Tettey was enough for Norwich City to see of Southampton which had midfielder Victor Wanyama sent off.
    Meanwhile, Johnny Evans scored a late winner to give West Brom a tightly contested 2-1 victory over in-form Stoke City.
    In the day's late fixture, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero struck late to give third placed Manchester City a valuable 2-1 over Watford and move Manuel Pelligrini's side to within a point of Leicester.