Gunners stoke up the Pressure
Written By: Robert Halter
Arsenal looked to revenge the disappointing 3-2 defeat at the Britannia Stadium while home to the Potters early January. In the second minute, Nacho Monreal in a forward position orchestrated the move for Alexis Sanchez, who riffled a curling shot that required a finger tip save by Asmir Begovic, at full stretch. Arsenal pressed forward again in the fifth minute, as Santi Cazorla weaved his way through and Tomas Rosicky drove a low strike that again Begovic put behind by diving with his outstretched palm. But a minute later, the Gunners persistence paid off as the ball was played in from Sanchez, whose cross was timed perfectly by the head of Koscielny, who rose in the box to power the ball into the net beyond the reach of Begovic, for an early opening goal. On eleven minutes, Mathieu Debuchy crashed into the advertising boarding behind the goal, after being pushed by the Potters’ Marjo Arnautovic, and while receiving treatment for a dislocated shoulder, Hector Bellerin took Debuchy’s place. But on sixteen minutes, Arsenal were back in the ascendancy with Sanchez on the move and after his ball across, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dragged his shot wide of the far post. Again the Gunners were denied by expert keeping by Begovic, who threw himself at the ball to keep out a powerful strike from Olivier Giroud, after Cazorla and Sanchez combined in the twentieth minute and then within sixty seconds, from Rosicky’s expertly placed pass, Giroud with a clear sight of the target, blazed his shot wide. But from a dead ball situation on twenty six minutes, Stoke were unable to make progress, after Bojan Krkic had been fouled by Monreal, and his free kick was put out into the middle for Glen Whelan, who smashed his effort high over the upright. But Arsenal doubled their advantage in the thirty third minute, after a loose touch from the Potters’ Steven Nzonzi which was punished as Sanchez combined with Rosicky and after picking up the exchange pass, Sanchez drove into the left side of the area, before striking a low drive into a narrow gap in the goal mouth, to put the Gunners in control. Monreal was then patched up for a cut on his face from a flailing elbow by Peter Crouch. In added first half time, Crouch ran out of steam without troubling David Ospina and then before the break, Crouch miss guided a header wide of the mark from a well placed cross by Arnautovic on the left side. Before half time, Oxlade-Chamberlain was unable to keep the ball down from the edge of the area, after Sanchez turned provider. Prior to the re-start, Stoke made a double change of Marc Muniesa for Erik Pieters and Steve Sidwell for Nzonzi, but on forty nine minutes, a reckless trip by Sidwell on Oxlade-Chamberlain presented a free kick opportunity for Sanchez, who fired the ball low and after a deflection off the wall, Begovic could on push the ball against his inside near post, as Arsenal took a commanding 3-0 lead. On fifty eight minutes, Arnautovic was unable to keep a free kick on target, after a foul on him by Koscielny as the Potters failed to impress. But Stoke pressed again on sixty three minutes, after Muniesa’s quick ball found the feet of Crouch, but he was blocked out under the left post. But midway through the second half, Cazorla played a one two with Oxlade-Chamberlain, and after cutting in from the right, Cazorla lofted the ball over. The Gunners then replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain with Theo Walcott before Stoke took off Krkic and brought on Stephen Ireland, while Mesut Ozil returned in place of Giroud. In the final fifteen minutes, Begovic was caught back pedalling and from over forty yards out, Sanchez’s lofted shot went narrowly over. On eighty minutes, Sanchez cleared the path for Walcott to score but he dragged his shot wide of the far post when clean through on goal and then six minutes later, Ozil skied the ball over after Cazorla found an opening in the Potters defence. Stoke were denied a consolation goal as Ospina stopped Ireland’s strike on the goal line from an Arnautovic cross.