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16:21 24th January 2010

Stoke City 3 Arsenal 1

STOKE CITY finally put the FA Cup Semi-Final heartaches of almost 40 years ago behind them thanks to an outstanding 3-1 victory against Arsenal.

A superb Ricardo Fuller brace and a late Dean Whitehead strike was enough to see off the Premier League's in form team after Arsene Wenger's side had drawn themselves level through Denilson from a controversial free-kick at the end of the first half.

The win ends Arsenal domestic 11-game unbeaten run and secures the Potters a place in the FA Cup 5th Round draw for the first time in four years.

Manager Tony Pulis made three changes to his starting line up from the one which picked up a well earned point against Liverpool in the league eight days ago. In came Danny Collins, Glenn Whelan and man-of-the-match Fuller at the expense of the injured Abdoulaye Faye, Salif Diao and Tuncay.

The visitors named a strong starting eleven with Spain skipper Cesc Fabregas, England star Theo Walcott and the recently returned Sol Campbell all included, with the likes of Andrei Arshavin, Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey having to settle for a place on the bench.

The game was barely 60 seconds old by the time Fuller had shell-shocked the visitors with a clinically-taken header. The Jamaican international nipped in between Mikael Silvestre and Lukasz Fabianski to head Rory Delap's long throw in to the back of the net via the post.

With 'Delilah' echoing around the stadium, the Potters continued their early assault on the Arsenal penalty area with the industrious Mamady Sidibe doing well to pressurise Sol Campbell into making a poor back pass, however, Fabianski was quick off his line to clear any impending danger.

It wasn't long until the visitors began to demonstrate the skills which saw them briefly steal top spot from Chelsea mid-week as Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott linked up delightfully to free Carlos Vela, but he fired wide of Thomas Sorensen's left hand post.

At the other end, a typical Fuller run down the right flank led to him beating both Armand Traore and Silvestre before teeing up Sidibe, only for the Malian to slice his effort behind him and away from goal.

City looked far more likely than the Gunners to find a second goal of the afternoon, and only some brave defending from Campbell and Silvestre ensured Wenger's side a one goal deficit.

Referee Martin Atkinson then played a major role in the final stages of the first period by first waving away a certain penalty for the Potters after Silvestre clearly felled Fuller inside the 18-yard box, before awarding Arsenal a dubious free-kick from which they levelled the proceedings.

Fabregas cleverly laid the ball off for Brazilian Denilson who struck the ball low and hard into the bottom right hand corner after agonisingly deflecting off of Whitehead, who desperately tried to block his 20-yard strike.

The half-time interval brought with it no changes as both managers decided to keep faith with the same starting eleven's in which they kicked off with.

It was the hosts who began the second period in similar fashion to the first. Etherington, who did his chances of forcing his way into the England set-up no harm with another outstanding display, dinked a delightful ball into the danger zone which Sidibe rose to head home, but fortunately for the Gunners Campbell nipped in front of him to clear the ball off the line.

Denmark number one Sorensen was then called into action ten minutes later as he pulled off a brilliant save to deny Fabregas giving the visitors the lead from 30-yards.

An entertaining affair continued to show signs of an eventual winner shortly before the hour mark as both Fuller and Sidibe went close for the Potters, whilst Jay Emmanuel-Thomas almost latched on to a cute through ball from Walcott.

Wenger thrust a trio if substitutes on to the field midway through the half as he looked to push on in search of a winner. But despite the arrivals of Arshavin, Ramsey and Carlos Vela, it was ultimately City who would go on to secure a place in the next round.

Just as Pulis looked ready to follow suit and make a triple substitution of his own, Sidibe set off on a darting run down the right hand side and delivered a teasing ball into the six-yard box which Fuller brilliantly glanced beyond Fabianski and into the back of the net to send the home supporters into delirium.

Two minutes later, Vela ballooned a glorious opportunity to level the scorelines, and he was made to pay the price for the miss as the hosts went up the other end and signed, sealed and delivered a memorable result thanks to Whitehead, who tapped home from close range after Etherington picked him out.

There was even time for a fourth goal to be scored right at the death as Tuncay drilled home from 10-yards, but his effort was chalked out after the referee adjudged him to have handled the ball in the build- up to the goal. Still... three was enough, and it ends a 40 year FA Cup hoodoo against the Gunners in which they had won the previous seven encounters.

    Data provided by Press Association


    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955