Stoke 1 Arsenal 1: Gunners close on third but Benayoun left fuming
16:19 GMT, 28 April 2012
Arsenal had to settle for a point in
their pursuit of a top three finish after they were denied a clear
penalty in the second half at the Britannia Stadium.
Benayoun was bundled over by Glenn Whelan with around 15 minutes to go,
and despite protestations from Arsene Wenger and some of the Gunners on
the field, Chris Foy waved away their claims.
the Potters took the lead in trademark style, with Peter Crouch rising
highest at the far post to direct a brilliant header beyond Wojciech
Szczesny after just nine minutes.
Hitting the deck: Yossi Benayoun had a big shout for a penalty as Arsenal fought for a draw at Stoke
STOKE CITY: Begovic, Huth, Shawcross, Shotton (Upson 55), Whelan, Wilson, Pennant (Jerome 78), Whitehead, Etherington (Delap 84), Walters, Crouch Subs not used: Sorensen, Upson, Palacios, Jones, Fuller.
Goals: Crouch 9
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky, Ramsey (Diaby 73), Song, Benayoun (Santos 83), Van Persie, Gervinho (Chamakh 78) Subs not used: Fabianski, Squillaci, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin
Goals: Van Persie 15
Booked: Song, Benayoun
Referee: Chris Foy
Attendance : 27,502
Gunners, though, were level within six minutes when excellent work from
Yossi Benayoun and Tomas Rosicky opened the door for Robin van Persie
who prodded home inside the six-yard box.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made two
changes from the team that drew with Chelsea last week, Gervinho and
Benayoun replacing the injured Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain,
while former Gunner Jermaine Pennant returned to the Stoke side.
The two clubs have history, most
notably their clash at the Britannia Stadium two years when Ryan
Shawcross was rightly sent off for a challenge which left Aaron Ramsey
with a broken leg and his career in the balance.
The Welshman started here and enjoyed
an impressive first-half against the backdrop of abuse from the crowd,
something which continued right up until he was heckled when being
substituted late on.
The atmosphere was spicy from the
start, and Dean Whitehead was booked in only the third minute after
catching Alex Song with his studs.
Head boy: Peter Crouch gave Stoke City the perfect start with a trademark header
Arsenal had lost on three of their previous four visits to the Britannia, but they had two great early
chances this afternoon, the first in the sixth minute when Van Persie
played in Tomas Rosicky, but his shot lacked power and was held by Asmir
The same duo combined moments later
as Rosicky picked out Van Persie at the back post, and his header drew a
terrific save from Begovic low at his near post.
Usual drill: Crouch continued his habit of scoring against Arsenal at all his Premier League clubs
Having survived those scares, Stoke
went down the other end and took the lead with nine minutes gone,
Matthew Etherington picking out the towering Crouch, who planted his
header firmly past Wojciech Szczesny.
Arsenal hit back strongly and, after Ramsey had curled a shot just wide, they found the leveller in the 15th minute.
Stoke had not learned their lesson
and again allowed Van Persie to run through the defence to meet a cross
from Rosicky, and this time he made no mistake for his 35th goal of the
Sparkling: Yossi Benayoun continued his recently impressive form in Arsenal's attack
The visitors were well on top now and
continued to threaten Begovic's goal, with Laurent Koscielny heading
over the bar and Gervinho missing a cross completely six yards out
before ending a fine run with a wild shot.
The loudest cheer of the day came
from the Arsenal fans when the Newcastle scoreline was read out at
half-time, but the visitors were grateful to Szczesny for some alert
goalkeeping in the opening minutes of the second half as he twice
punched away dangerous crosses, one from Etherington and one from
Level terms: Robin van Persie scored his first goal in open play for more than 12 hours
Pure delight: The equaliser was the least Arsenal deserved for a bright start at the Britannia
At the other end, Van Persie got his
head to a Bacary Sagna cross 10 yards out, but could not beat Begovic,
while a jinking run from Rosicky was ended with a fine challenge by
Shawcross just as the midfielder was about to shoot.
The first 20 minutes aside, there had
been very few real chances for either side, but Arsenal were given a
good shooting opportunity when Ramsey's turn 20 yards out was too sharp
for Glenn Whelan.
Van Persie's shot was blocked by the
wall, though, and Shawcross then did well to stop Thomas Vermaelen's
follow-up, although Arsenal felt he should have been penalised for
handball just outside the area.
Up for the battle: Arsenal had to stand up to the usual barrage from the imposing Stoke players
Unhappy memories: Aaron Ramsey, whose leg was broken by Ryan Shawcross at Stoke, was booed by home fans
Wenger sent on Abou Diaby, Marouane
Chamakh and Andre Santos for Ramsey, Gervinho and Benayoun, while
Pennant was replaced by Cameron Jerome for Stoke, and he was into the
action immediately with a shot beaten away by Szczesny.
Vermaelen tried his luck from another
free-kick, but screwed it wide, while at the other end a long throw
from substitute Rory Delap had Szczesny in all sorts of trouble, but
Sagna cleared from virtually off the line.