Arsenal put pay to the Potters
Written By: Robert Halter
Arsenal had won each of their last fourteen home games against Stoke City in all competitions. The Potters started brightly as from a corner by Xherdan Shaqiri and a poor header out from Nacho Monreal, the ball was met at full blast from Marc Muniesa, and tipped over acrobatically by Petr Cech in the third minute. Two minutes later, a miss placed pass from Charlie Adam, opened the door for Arsenal as Alexis Sanchez, flashed a shot across the face of the goal. Stoke went to sleep again on eight minutes, when a miss kick in the area by Potters keeper, Lee Grant cannoned against Sanchez, as the ball rebounded behind for safety. But on twelve minutes, a through ball by Shkodran Mustafi found Theo Walcott free on the right side of the box, and his low drive was kept out by Grant at full stretch, before Glen Johnson conceded a corner. Midway through the first half, from an over the top delivery by Adam, a low cross on the left by Marko Arnautovic, was turned wide by Joe Allen. But the Gunners had to make a change as Mustafi pulled up with a hamstring injury and Hector Bellerin took over. On twenty seven minutes a collision into Allen by Granit Xhaka, had referee Lee Mason pointing to the spot, before Adam stepped up to despatch the penalty, sending Cech the wrong way. On thirty six minutes, from a delivery by Xhaka, the ball was driven in by Bellerin, before Mame Biram Diouf made a crucial clearance by lofting the ball over the top. But in the forty second minute, Arsenal got the equaliser as Sanchez slid the ball through to Bellerin on the right, whose low cross was tucked away by Walcott. In the next two minutes, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put the ball back to Sanchez, whose right footed strike was whipped over the crossbar. In stoppage time, a well placed pass by Bellerin, was struck over the upright by Oxlade-Chamberlain. But Stoke responded when from over forty yards out, Shakiri drove the ball into the comfortable reach of Cech from an assist by Giannelli Imbula. Arsenal started the second half with Xhaka onto Bellerin, who sliced his effort wide of the mark. Then in the forty ninth minute, the Potters were caught cold as from a high delivery by Oxlade-Chamberlain, an unmarked Mesut Ozil, sent a cushioned header past a stranded Grant, to put the Gunners in the box seat. Then a long range effort by Adam was saved by Cech in the top centre of the goal as Arnautovic set the accelerator. In the fifty third minute, a pint point cross by Sanchez was met with a glancing header by Oxlade-Chamberlian, which went wide of the far post. On fifty seven minutes from an assist by Francis Coquelin, a low drive by Xhaka, went past the target. A minute later, as Sanchez put the ball over to Oxlade-Chamberlain, he was unable to trouble Grant with a low strike. On sixty eight minutes, as Shakiri put the ball out wide to Arnautovic, his strike sailed over the goal mouth. Arsenal then changed Oxlade-Chamberlain with Alex Iwobi, before the Potters brought on Petr Crouch for Diouf and with his first touch, Crouch brought a point blank save by Cech with a bullet header from a Shakiri corner, before Laurent Koscielny averted the danger. Stoke pressed again as Shakiri tried his luck from distance but to no avail. Arsenal wrapped the game up in the seventy fifth minute when Sanchez was tripped by Bruno Martins Indi, but referee Mason played the advantage as Iwobi raced clean through to turn the ball past Grant to cement the Gunners 3-1 advantage. Arsene Wenger replaced Sanchez with Olivier Giroud before Mark Hughes took off Adam for Ramadan Sobhi. In the eighty second minute, from Coquelin’s pass, Walcott weaved his way through down the right before his stinging strike was pushed away by Grant. Near the end, Shakiri was taken off for debutant Julien Ngoy. In the final piece of action, Walcott combined with Bellerin, before Giroud miss timed a header wide to the right but it was still heads up for Arsenal, as over night the Gunners took top spot in the table during early December.