Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Sunday December 6 2009
Sat 5th December
Any Potters' fans who conjured thoughts of a momentous win against Arsenal and the opportunity to gain some money at the bookies' expense would have been reassessing their investment after just a few minutes at the Emirates.
This was always going to be a big ask, but whilst the score is even and Arsenal have no recognised strikers to call upon you feel justified in just the faintest hope that miracles do happen. Not today though.
In truth, Stoke were battered throughout, mainly at the hands of the Russian midfielder, Arshavin and the score would have been much higher had it not been for the brilliance of Thomas Sorensen, who saved us countless times and added his second penalty save in a row to his role of honour.
This was never a game that Stoke were going to win by any way other than solid defending and so it was no surprise that Tony Pulis decided to rest his two favoured strikers. Ricardo Fuller has four yellow cards to his name and the manager would want to ensure his presence for the visit of Wigan next week. James Beattie is still recovering from some long running injury niggles and so both found themselves on the bench, leaving the way open for Tuncay to make his first start alongside Mamady Sidibe.
Ryan Shawcross was always a doubt after getting a groin strain at Ewood Park last week, but Abdoulaye Faye was more than an able replacement, leaving Andy Wilkinson to start his third consecutive match. Liam Lawrence was another to retain his starting place with Rory Delap returning to replace the suspended Dean Whitehead.
Despite an early battering from the Gunners and some great saves from Sorensen, it was 20 minutes before Fabregas had the first real chance to put them in front. Ashavin was brought down by Delap with a late tackle just inside the penalty area but Fabregas was no match for Thomas 'penalty king' Sorensen who made a great save. But it was all for nought just six minutes later when Arshavin found the net after firing wide of Sorensen. We could have gone two down just minutes later but Eboue came to our rescue after Faye's deflection hit the post and rebounded to Fabregas who fired straight at his teammate for the ball to then go harmlessly out of play.
The second half started as the first had ended with Faye again managing to deflect a shot against the bar as the Potters were all hands to the pump. But the longer you're only a goal behind there is still hope and Pulis threw on the fresh legs of Beattie and Fuller for Big Mama and Lawrence. But with just 10 minutes remaining the home side got the killer goal from their 19 year old sub, Aaron Ramsey.
Almunia, Sagna, Vermaelen, Gallas, Eboue (Ramsey 54), Traore (Silvestre 88), Fabregas, Rosicky (Vela 46), Nasri, Denilson, Arshavin
Subs: Fabianski, Senderos, Silvestre, Ramsey, Wilshere, Merida, Vela
Sorensen, Huth, Collins, Faye, Wilkinson, Lawrence (Fuller 75), Diao, Tuncay, Delap (Whelan 81), Etherington, Sidibe (Beattie 62)
Subs: Simonsen, Higginbotham, Cort, Whelan, Pugh, Beattie, Fuller
Date:Sunday December 6 2009
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