Report: Arsenal 2-0 Stoke City
Arsenal returned to winning ways with a routine 2-0 victory over Stoke City today.
Arshavin struck early in the first half to calm any nerves over another physical home test but the match was still hanging in the air until substitute Ramsey did the same late on to clinch the points.
Even so, on another day, matters might have been much different. Fabregas had seen his spot-kick saved at the start and for a side derailed in confidence over the past week, the Gunners were really up against it.
Genuine title contenders find a way out on bad days, and despite an understandably timid performance, Wenger’s men dug deep for a much needed tonic to their recent woes.
Arsene Wenger handed Arshavin the lone-striker berth with a five-man midfield in support of him, and the hosts laid siege on the Stoke goal in the opening 10 minutes with the Russian at the forefront of everything in the final third.
In just the third minute, Arshavin should have given the Gunners the lead after he was put clean through on goal by Fabregas, but he dallied fractionally to allow the excellent Sorensen to sprawl himself at the forward’s feet and make a smart save.
As Arsenal’s pressure became incessant, Stoke were forced to defend valiantly to limit the damage inflicted and, after Eboue had surged down the right, Faye made a fine intervention to turn his cross away with Arshavin loitering ominously at the back post.
In the 20th minute, the hosts were awarded a penalty as Rory Delap scythed through the back of Arshavin in clumsy fashion and referee Mark Clattenburg had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Fabregas, assuming penalty-kick duties in the absence of Van Persie, struck his shot firmly enough but it was at a comfortable height for Sorensen, who saved smartly to his left.
Wenger, who had used his programme notes to bemoan how his team “cannot take advantage of dangerous situations”, must have feared his words had fallen on deaf ears but, within seven minutes, any annoyance had evaporated.
Fabregas, doubtless anxious to atone for his error, teed up Arshavin on the left side of the area and, after Stoke’s defenders inexplicably backed off, the 28-year-old was able to place his shot into the bottom corner.
Moments later, the game should have been killed off for good. A surging run and fizzing low cross from Armand Traore was deflected onto his own post by Abdoulaye Faye, with Fabregas meeting the rebound on the half-volley.
The ball was scudding towards the net until it struck Emmanuel Eboue, the Arsenal midfielder, and deflected wide.
The second half was a more sedate affair.
Arshavin came close with a low shot that drew another impressive save from Sorensen, while Faye again struck his own woodwork as he deflected the former Zenit St Petersburg forward’s shot onto the crossbar.
That provoked some nervous grumbling among the home supporters but their misgivings were misplaced.
With 10 minutes left, Ramsey, on as a substitute, advanced to the edge of Stoke’s area and planted a sweet shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot.
Wenger, and Arsenal, could breathe again.