Stoke Record Historic Victory
Stoke recorded one of their most famous results in the premier league as they beat title chasing Arsenal 2-1 at a joyful Britannia Stadium. An early Ricardo Fuller header and a late Seyi Olofinjana goal ensured the Potters maximum points and revenge for the 1972 cup semi-final replay defeat.
Tony Pulis made a surprise change by bringing in Amdy Faye to partner Salif Diao in the centre of midfield, Seyi Olofinjana was put out on the right of midfield to replace the dropped Tom Soares. Arsenal started a team missing a few well known superstars such as William Gallas, Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri.
Arsenal immediately showed their intent with some slick passing and sharp moving that has become expected of them over the years. Euro 2008 winning midfielder Cesc Fabregas had the first attempt from distance but wasn`t able to beat Thomas Sorensen who looked cool and at ease throughout the match.
Stoke hit the front through the same deadly duo that undid Sunderland on Wednesday night. A spell of Stoke pressure resulted in a throw-in for Rory Delap, he launched it into Manuel Almunia`s goalmouth for the in-form Ricardo Fuller to head home and send Stoke fans into dream land.
The fans really got behind the team after that as Stoke started to dominate the proceedings. The centre midfield pairing of Diao and Amdy Faye bullied Arsenals Cesc Fabregas and Denilson and scared them into playing sloppy football that Stoke were more than happy to mop up.
Stoke had a great chance to double their advantage through Rory Delap. A deep Higginbotham cross was poorly dealt with by Arsenal and Delap`s goal bound header was cleared off the line by Gail Clichy.
Arsenal responded with more passing and moving, and their pressure showed when Amdy Faye slipped allowing Emmanuel Adebayor to run at Andy Griffin, the big Togolese striker took aim and fired over the bar in-front of the Boothern end. Denilson went close forcing Sorensen into a save before half time which ended with Stoke on top but with Arsenal looking like they could strike an equaliser.
In the early minutes of the second half it was Arsenal that dominated possession and Stoke were playing on the counter attack. It was on the counter attack that Stoke should have had a chance to go two to the good through Fuller. A great ball through from Amdy Faye- who had a very good game in the midfield -released Fuller into a one on one situation before the linesman flagged for offside.
Arsenal started to sense a goal when Fabregas brilliantly released sub Theo Walcott, as the England striker was about to cause problems Danny Higginbotham came from nowhere to make a great tackle to the delight of the 25,000 plus Stokies. Arsenal`s closest effort came through captain Kolo Toure, a clever low corner from Fabregas was neatly flicked by Toure agonisingly inches over the bar and away for safety.
The physicality of Stoke took its toll on Arsenal shortly after as Adebayor, who was battling with Shawcross all afternoon, limped off with a foot injury to be replaced by wonder kid Carlos Vela.
Stoke soon put the game to bed with 16 minutes remaining with a scrappy goal. Another Delap throw-in wasn`t dealt with and it came through to Olofinjana who bundled the ball home. Stoke`s fans celebrated like crazy as it became a reality that they were going to beat the Gunners.
Any chances of a late Arsenal reprieve were shortly dashed as they went down to 10 men. A floating cross from Theo Walcott was chested back to Sorensen from Shawcross. The Danish number 1 controlled the ball on his chest much to the annoyance of Robin Van Persie, the Dutch striker who had only been on the pitch for 15 minutes bundled Sorensen over with force to earn a straight red card.
Arsenal had to finish the game with 9 men after Walcott was carried off with a shoulder injury and Wenger had used up all his substitutions. His side did however score a consolation late on as a weak Clichy shot took a number of deflections and disappointingly fooled Sorensen to give away fans hope. That was the only blip on a great afternoon for the goalkeeper and defence alike.
But that hope was short-lived as the referee blew his whistle to record a famous victory for Stoke. The Potters now climb to 12th in the league on 13 points, 5 clear of bottom club Bolton. Next up is an important battle away at fellow relegation threatened Wigan Athletic, a game that Stoke will be hoping to record their first away win in the premier league.
Stoke: Sorensen, Griffin (c), Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Olofinjana, Amdy Faye, Diao (Whelan 78), Delap, Sidibe (Kitson 96), Fuller (Cresswell 86). Subs not used: Simonsen, Wilkinson, Sonko, Soares.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna (Walcott 58), Toure (c), Silvestre, Clichy, Denilson (Van Persie 65), Song, Fabregas, Diaby, Bendtner, Adebayor (Vela 72). Subs not used: Fabianski, Djourou, Ramsey, Nasri.