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15:40 23rd October 2011

Super Sub Seals City Fate

SUBSTITUTE Robin Van Persie stole the show in North London to break Stoke City hearts and deny Tony Pulis' side of their first ever point at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium.

Peter Crouch's third goal for the Club looked to have been enough for the side to pick up their thirteenth point of the campaign after he tapped home to level for the visitors after Gervinho had fired the hosts in front shortly before the half hour mark.

Arsene Wenger thrust on the in-form front-man though with 25 minutes remaining and he came to the rescue of his team-mates as he fired home a quick-fire brace to secure the side their sixth win in seven games.

Prior to the game Tony Pulis was handed a blow with the news that Jermaine Pennant hadn't overcome a niggling injury in time to face his former Club, but would have been boosted by omission of Van Persie.

The City boss made six changes to his starting line up from the side which comfortably beat Israeli side Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Thursday evening's Europa League clash at the Britannia Stadium.

As expected, Asmir Begovic returned in goal at the expense of Thomas Sorensen whilst midfield pair Glenn Whelan and Rory Delap both came back into the side after being rested in midweek.

German defender Robert Huth dropped down to the bench to accommodate Andy Wilkinson at right back, whilst Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones were replaced by Jon Walters and Peter Crouch in attack.

The big surprise of the afternoon though was Wenger's decision to rest the free-scoring Van Persie; the Frenchman instead preferred the trio of Theo Walcott, Marouane Chamakh and Ivory Coast star Gervinho.

It was, in fact, the aforementioned Gervinho who lit up a relatively quiet opening 30 minutes of the encounter with a cool finish from eight-yards after Aaron Ramsey had sublimely caught out the City rearguard with a delicate dink to free the Arsenal number 27.

Prior to the goal, chances had been few and far between with the industrious Walters speculatively firing over from 25-yards after doing well to get the better of Johan Djourou, whilst at the other end Walcott had flashed an effort across the face of goal.

Arsenal's well-publicised frailties at the back were always going to be questioned as and when the Potters had the opportunity to test their resolve from set-pieces.

The towering German Per Mertesacker dealt with a couple of trademark Delap long throw-ins, but there was nothing neither he nor his fellow defenders could do to deny the Potters an equaliser ten minutes before the break.

Crouch, constantly booed by the majority of the Emirates Stadium throughout the encounter due to his past allegiances with North London rivals Spurs, earned the visitors a free kick after being shoved by the clumsy Laurent Koscielny midway inside the Arsenal half.

Whelan stepped up and delivered a deep ball into the Gunners 18-yard box which finally found its way to Crouch, via Shawcross, Upson and Walters, leaving the England star with the simplest of task's of tapping the ball into an empty net from two-yards.

The goal undoubtedly breathed fresh belief into Pulis' troops who laid siege on the Gunners' goal for the remainder of the half.

Etherington turned and teased Brazilian Andre Santos before firing wide of goal, whilst another Whelan set-piece wreaked havoc inside the six-yard box though Mertesacker ultimately cleared the danger, with Walters ready to pounce.

But it was the hosts who went closest to grabbing the third goal of the game deep into stoppage time when Chamakh almost picked out Walcott at the back-post, but thankfully Upson bravely stooped down to head clear, despite receiving a boot to the head.

The early stages of the second half saw an improvement from Wenger's side as they pushed forward in an attempt to restore their lead. Mikel Arteta's corner caused an almighty scramble in the danger zone before Shawcross thumped the ball clear.

For all of their possession and territorial advantage, Arsenal lacked a real cutting edge, and it came as no surprise when Wenger introduced both Van Persie and Andrei Arshavin from the bench in a bid to secure all three points.

Their introductions sparked life into the Gunners with Van Persie in particular proving to be a constant menace to the City backline. It was in fact his clever manoeuvre inside the 6-yard box which gave him just enough time to fire home past the unfortunate Begovic in the 73rd minute following good work from Gervinho.

It was an almost identical third ten minutes later with Gervinho again waltzing past Wilson, drilling the ball across goal, straight into the path of the Dutchman who guided the ball into the back of the net with Begovic again unlucky not to have kept the ball out.

Jones and Jerome were thrust on late on in a last ditch attempt to salvage something from the game, but despite their power and pace, it proved to be in vein as Arsenal held on to lift themselves up above the Potters in the Premier League table for the first time since August.

    Data provided by Press Association


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