Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Saturday February 27 2010
Arsenal closed the gap at the top of the Premier League to just 3 points after they came from behind to beat Stoke 3-1 at the Britannia. Danny Pugh had given Stoke the lead from a Rory Delap throw-in before Nicklas Bendtner superbly headed an equaliser. Further goals from Cesc Fabregas and Thomas Vermaelen saw Arsenal home but the game will be remembered for the horrific injury suffered by Aaron Ramsey.
The Welshman has suffered a broken leg after a 50-50 challenge with Ryan Shawcross, who was subsequently sent off. Distressing scenes followed which saw Arsenal visibly upset and Shawcross in tears as he walked off the pitch.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis made 3 changes from the side that beat Man City in the cup. Danny Pugh was the surprise selection on the left of midfield as he replaced Liam Lawrence. Abdoulaye Faye and Andy Wilkinson both returned from suspensions in place of Danny Collins and Salif Diao.
The fiery crowd were behind Stoke from the off and they immediately put pressure on Arsene Wenger`s side. Mama Sidibe headed wide from an early Delap throw but 'Devastating Delap` soon provided Stoke with the lead.
His fizzed in throw was flicked on by Shawcross to the back post where Danny Pugh stooped low to head in his first Stoke goal for over a year. Scenes of jubilation went round the Brit as Stoke led Arsenal again.
Arsenal were rattled and the three creative midfielders; Fabregas, Ramsey and Nasri were struggling against the strength and pressure applied by Dean Whitehead and Rory Delap.
However they soon got going and Fabregas forced a decent stop out of Sorensen with a crisp half-volley sneaking inside the post. Minutes later though the equaliser arrived after Bendtner rose above Wilkinson and powerfully headed Fabregas`s cross past Sorensen.
As half-time arrived the game was very even as although Arsenal dominated possession, it was Stoke who looked the more threatening on the counter attack.
Early in the second half Abdoulaye Faye was replaced by Danny Collins and Eboue brought an outstanding save from Sorensen from just outside the box as his effort was destined for the top corner.
Arsenal now looked dangerous going forward and they controlled the game. Upfront for the Potters, Ricardo Fuller was left to feed on scraps and he couldn`t quite recreate the magic he has produced against Arsenal on their two previous visits.
After the sickening injury to Ramsey, the game fell flat and many supporters became disinterested in the game as thoughts were with the young Welshman.
Arsenal looked mentally drained and struggled to press home the numerical advantage.
However with two minutes left, luck fell the Gunners way. Danny Pugh was adjudged, by the poor referee Peter Walton, to have handled the ball in the penalty area and Fabregas stepped up and calmly slotted the ball home from the spot despite Sorensen`s best efforts. And just to make the game safe, deep in to injury time Vermaelen tapped into an empty net to seal the points.
The result leaves Stoke 11th still on 34 points. Next up is Chelsea away in the FA Cup Quarters before a rearranged game away at Burnley.
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Date:Saturday February 27 2010
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