Stoke gun down Arsenal in cup
Stoke ended almost 40 years of pain as a memorable day saw them beat Arsenal and progress through to the 5th round of the FA Cup. A Ricardo Fuller brace and a first Stoke goal for Dean Whitehead was enough, as the inspired Potters totally outplayed the visitors. Stoke will play Manchester City in the fifth round.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis made 3 changes to the side from last weeks draw against Liverpool. Out went Tuncay for a rest and Abdoulaye Faye who was injured, and they were replaced by both Ricardo Fuller and Danny Collins. Also recalled was Glenn Whelan in place of Salif Diao.
In the Arsenal team, club legend Sol Campbell made his long awaited return to the club as he played his first game since resigning last week.
Stoke shot out of the trap door like a bullet and took the lead after less than two minutes. Early pressure resulted in the first of many Rory Delap throws that Arsenal struggled with so much last year. As the rocket entered the box at blistering speed, Fuller managed to beat Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski to the ball and he headed the ball in off the post.
The visitors were shaken as the Potters piled on the pressure with both Mama Sidibe and Ricardo Fuller working tirelessly upfront all day. However Mama did struggle in the air against the impressive Campbell who handled the physicality of Stoke much better then any of his team mates.
Arsenal`s youngsters started to show how promising they were with some neat passing, orchestrated by the super talented Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard seemed Arsenal`s only real threat going forward to the box as both Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela struggled. Walcott was kept on his leash all day by Danny Collins who enjoyed a successful return to the first team.
At the other end Fuller was playing out of his skin and caused both Campbell and Mikael Silvestre problems. He should have been given a penalty when he skipped past one Arsenal challenge but was clearly tripped over by the second of Silvestre but the ref waved away all claims.
Stoke felt even more hard done by when the ref awarded Arsenal a free kick right on the corner of the penalty box after Dean Whitehead was judged to have handled the ball. Up stepped Fabregas who deceived everyone by laying it across for Denilson whose shot deflected into the corner past a stranded Sørensen. Arsenal managed to claw themselves back into the game against the run of play.
Stoke came out all guns blazing in the second half and came within whiskers of taking the lead. Whelan, who pulled the strings in midfield, set-up Etherington down the left and he clipped in a great ball that just cleared the head of Sidibe.
Big Mama was enjoying one of his best performances in a Stoke shirt and a goal would have capped off a fine all round display.
Fabregas however wouldn`t go away and almost scored an outstanding goal from 30 yards but his vicious shot was just tipped over by Sorensen. Vela also found space but his shot went sailing wide.
Wenger then played his trump card and bought on the likes of Eduardo and Arshavin who enjoyed plenty of success against the Potters in their previous meeting in December.
It was Stoke though who took the lead, and in style. Sidibe picked the ball up on the right and went on a charging run down the wing. Arsenal were startled and Silvestre`s slip allowed the big African to chip a inch perfect ball over the head of Campbell for Fuller to head back across goal and into the back of the net.
It then got even better a few minutes later. After Vela missed another great opportunity for Arsenal, Etherington`s pace allowed him to beat a couple of men and feed a simple ball across the face of goal for the onrushing Whitehead to tap home.
Game over and the Potters booked their spot in the fifth round. With United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton knocked out. Do we dare to dream?