Stoke City 1 - 1 Arsenal: match report

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - APRIL 28: Dean Whitehead of Stoke City attempts to hold off Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at Britannia Stadium on April 28, 2012 in Stoke on Trent, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

1 - 0 Peter Crouch 10'
1 - 1 Robin van Persie 15'

Stoke would open the match playing with, perhaps surprisingly, two wingers, Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington. The match wouldn't take long to sort of reach a grumbling boiling point, Dean Whitehead earning a yellow for a studs-up challenge on Alex Song after three minutes. Peter Crouch won two headers in the first five minutes as well, although his second was offside.

Six minutes in, Robin van Persie played Yossi Benayoun through, but the Israeli's effort was scuffed a bit and didn't have the necessary power to elude Asmir Begovic. Two minutes later, Tomas Rosicky picked out van Persie at the far post, but the header was saved really well at the post.

But remember that Crouch guy? Yeah. 10 minutes in, the simplest floated cross from the left was headed home, the 6-7 Crouch outjumping Thomas Vermaelen and burying his header no problem past Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal were going to have to crawl out of the hole.

And they did well to do so 15 minutes on. Benayoun played Rosicky down the left, and the Czech man twisted and turned before chipping in a murderous cross that only could end with van Persie turning it home past Begovic with his right foot.

1-1.

Arsenal were now pushing on, and 19 minutes in, could have been up two if Bacary Sagna's cross had been headed home by Gervinho, who couldn't quite get to it. Song won a free kick a minute later, which Laurent Koscielny headed over the bar. Two minutes after that, Gervinho burst through, but Ryan Shawcross did enough in the end to alter the Ivorian's shot, and it was well high. The Gunners were enjoying the lion's share of play, but Stoke were sending aerial balls back with interest towards the waiting radio tower that is Crouch.

Arsenal were, however, looking much more dangerous when playing through on the ground, and 28 minutes in, Kieran Gibbs got to the byline and played a cutback that didn't quite make it to Benayoun. Arsenal were trying to cut through Stoke's defense from the wings, but the Potters were getting bodies in the way of all cutbacks.

For Arsenal, the formula was clear: play it long, and suffer. Play it on the ground, and don't.

38 minutes in, Stoke won a free kick from the right. It was a terrible one from Pennant, and the Stoke attack fizzled out offside. Arsenal had lost a little impetus as halftime began to loom, springing a counter from a Stoke free kick wherein Rosicky couldn't quite get his outside-of-the-foot cross to van Persie.

Stoke continued to threaten from free kicks, which Arsenal would do well to not give away. Stoke won one on 43 minutes, and then a corner, both of which Arsenal did well to clear. Halftime arrived with the score knotted at 1-1.

Aresnal started the second half under a bit of pressure, but in the 47th minute, van Persie's shot was blocked. It fell to Gervinho, who missed by only about 20 feet. Stoke put some more pressure on after that, sending in a number of crosses which Szczesny punched away. 50 minutes in, Sagna put in a great cross, but van Persie's header was saved really well by Begovic.

Stoke were putting in a good spell of pressure, now, Arsenal finding it hard to play the ball out of their own half. Throw-ins and punts kept floating in, and through 53 minutes, the Gunners were handling them fairly well.

56 minutes on, Matthew Upson replaced Ryan Shotton at right back, Robert Huth sliding out with Upson moving to the center. Stoke were having the majority of play now, but Arsenal did have a moment of near-genius closed off by Shawcross ten yards from goal. Yossi Benayoun earned a yellow card.

67 minutes on, Alex Song earned a yellow. 71 minutes on, Arsenal won a free kick, which the wall blocked, and then Vermaelen shot, which was also blocked, with a pretty blatant Shawcross hand. A minute later, Ramsey shot wide. It was his last contribution, as Abou Diaby replaced the Welsh Captain a minute later.

Arsenal were putting pressure on now, a Benayoun penalty shout not given on 75 minutes. They won a corner on 76. It didn't do much. Stoke introduced Cameron Jerome for Jermaine Pennant on 78 minutes. At the same time, Marouane Chamakh came on for Gervinho, signaling a possible change in shape.

83 minutes on, Szczesny had to do well to beat away a fairly vicious Cameron Jerome strike. Following that, Andre Santos replaced Benayoun. A minute later, Rory Delap replaced Etherington.

Chamakh was doing his best in a hold-up striker role, and he was actually doing it pretty well. Arsenal won a free kick on 86 minutes, which started a sequence ending in a Sagna effort which Begovic saved. 88 minutes, and another free kick that van Persie won with perfect body control. Vermaelen's effort was just wide and low past the far post.

Stoke won a Delap on 91 minutes, and it nearly went over the line, and then Walters nearly found Shawcross thirty seconds later. Neither made it in. It was ugly. Arsenal tried to spring forward, and won a corner. Nothing came of it.

The game fizzled out, and it was all over. 1-1 draw, perhaps a valuable point as Newcastle lost. Arsenal 66 points, Newcastle 62, Spurs 59, Newcastle one game in hand, Spurs two.

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