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16:54 28th April 2012

Crouch Earns City A Point

PETER Crouch did his chances of an England call up no harm whatsoever on Saturday . . . as his 14th goal of the season ensured the Potters a share of the spoils from their clash with Champions League chasing Arsenal.

The Club's leading scorer superbly headed home the opening goal of the game just ten minutes in, however, the Peremier League's top marksman Robin Van Persie soon levelled matters from close range.

Both sides had opportunities of grabbing all three points during a frantic second forty five minutes, with Crouch and Jonathan Walters both going closest in stoppage time.

Prior to the game Pennant was deemed fit enough to make a return to the starting line-up as one of two changes to the side beaten at Newcastle. While he replaced the injured Wilkinson, Whitehead was brought into the centre of midfield at the expense of Palacios.

The game was barely three minutes old when a challenge from Whitehead on Song left the Arsenal players complaining to referee Foy, who responded by showing the City player a yellow card, after which the Gunners midfielder was quick to his feet.

Matthew Etherington is closed down by Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen. ACTION IMAGES

Begovic then had to make a crucial one-handed save low to his left when Benayoun, having charged the ball down initially, exchanged passes with van Persie before trying to squeeze his low shot beyond the Bosnian and in at the far post.

There was another scare for the Potters moments later when Benayoun turned provider with a pinpoint cross to the far post where van Persie met with his head, but Begovic was alert to the situation and got across to push it behind.

After those anxious moments in the opening stages, City produced an excellent move which led to them taking the lead in the ninth minute.

The ball was worked out to Etherington on the left who was allowed the space to pick his cross and he produced the perfect delivery for Crouch to rise above the attention of two Arsenal defenders to beat Szczesny with his firm header.

Peter Crouch heads home Stoke City's goal against Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium. ACTION IMAGES

Arsenal hit back almost immediately, however, as Benayoun caused more problems with a run down the left and his cross was blocked by Shawcross.

When Shotton was then caught in possession as Rosicky burst down the left hand side, it proved to be costly as the Czech international sent over a cross which found van Persie unmarked on the edge of the six yard box to calmly slot his shot home.

As expected, Arsenal were having plenty of possession and carved a couple of good opportunities, most notably when Gervinho burst past two defenders onto a pass from Song, but fortunately for City his shot was blazed over the bar.

Shotton was having an uncomfortable time of it and when Gervinho switched to the left hand side, he burst past the young defender to deliver a low cross, but Huth spotted the danger and intervened with a clearance upfield to Crouch.

Asmir Begovic is powerless to stop Robin van Persie's equaliser for Arsenal. ACTION IMAGES

As the half moved into the final stages, City were given the chance to exert some pressure on the Gunners when Pennant over a free kick from the right which Shawcross rose to meet, but that was deflected behind for a corner.

Etherington caused more problems for the Arsenal defence by whipping in the corner from the right but Vermaelen met it firmly with his head.

City began the second half on the front foot with the Gunners forced to defend grimly when both Etherington and Pennant sent over crosses, but at the other end the dangerous van Persie had a header well-saved by Begovic.

The Potters made their first change of the afternoon and it was no surprise that Shotton was the one to make way for former Arsenal man Upson, meaning a reshuffle which saw Huth move into the vacant right back position.

Jermaine Pennant and Thomas Vermaelen compete for the ball. ACTION IMAGES

There was another worrying moment for the City defence when Gervinho burst past Wilson and slipped a pass to Benayoun, but Shawcross read situation well and made an important interception to halt the Arsenal man in his tracks.

Shawcross then produced another important block when Gibbs found himself in a shooting position inside the box after Huth had dived in to prevent van Persie from getting in a shot after some excellent approach work from Song.

At the other end, there were a couple of moments when Walters might have been in on goal had he been quicker off the mark, but the Arsenal defence got the ball away as the Potters sensed the chance to gain the upper hand.

Arsenal were then awarded a free kick in van Persie territory after a foul by Whelan, but the Dutchman's fiercely struck left foot shot was blocked by the City wall, as indeed was the follow-up equally well hit by Vermaelen.

Dean Whitehead holds off Laurent Koscielny. ACTION IMAGES

The visitors felt they should have had a penalty when Benayoun bursting into the box went down with Whelan trying to tack back, but referee Foy waved away their appeals after glancing over towards his assistant referee.

Both sides made changes when Jerome was brought on in place of Pennant, while Arsenal introduced Chamakh in place of Gervinho.

The former Birmingham almost made an immidiate impact as he forced Szczesny into a smart save from an acute angle after Whitehead had superbly played him through.

Both sides pushed for a late winner with Van Persie lashing wide from a 25-yard free-kick, before Crouch and Walters both went agoningly close to grabbing a dramatic stoppage time winner.

    Data provided by Press Association


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