Skip to main content

MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:30 1st March 2014

Jonny On The Spot

JONATHAN WALTERS' late penalty deservedly secured his side all three points against Premier League title-chasers Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Republic of Ireland international displayed incredible composure in front of the Boothen End by coolly slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net after Laurent Koscielny had handled inside his own 18-yard box.

It was no more than the Potters had deserved following another superb home showing against one of the top-flights big boys.

Incredibly, of the 30 points that Mark Hughes’ side have now accumulated this term, 10 of them have been secured in four home matches against the Gunners, Manchester United, Chelsea and current leaders Manchester City.

The margin of victory could arguably have been greater had Peter Crouch managed to prod home one of several half-opportunities that fell his way, whilst Glenn Whelan and Geoff Cameron had also gone agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock prior to Walters’ 76th minute spot kick.

Prior to kick-off the City boss was handed a major blow with the news that Peter Odemwingie had failed to overcome a calf injury that he sustained during training in the build up to the encounter.

The Nigerian’s absence paved the way for Steven Nzonzi to return to the eleven for the first time since his dismissal against Sunderland in January.

That proved to be the only change the Welshman made to his side from the one that ran Manchester City so close at the Etihad Stadium seven days earlier.

Swedish star John Guidetti was recalled back to the bench after being forced to sit out the game against his parent side last time out.

An electric atmosphere swept around the stadium as the two sets of players made their way onto the field in far more welcomed conditions than those that greeted them against Swansea several weeks earlier.

The hosts started the game well, and displayed a style of football that was arguably more synonymous with the visitors.

Arsene Wenger’s side were forced to watch on as the hosts retained possession well, and looked to forge an opening behind the Gunners backline with intricate passages of play.

Austrian international Arnautovic did manage to calve their rearguard open with a sublime ball across to Walters, however, after the Irishman had glanced just wide, the linesman raised his flag for a dubious offside.

Stoke continued in the ascendency with Adam firing a tame free-kick straight into the palms of Wojciech Szczesny, before he against tested the stopper with an audacious effort from 30-yards.

It wasn’t until the 17-minute mark that the visitors had their first meaningful effort at goal, but even that failed to trouble Begovic as Santi Cazorla whipped his strike well wide of the Bosnian’s upright.

A more meaningful attack culminated in Lukas Podolski cleverly manoeuvring space for himself inside the penalty box, but again, his effort was sliced well wide of goal, much to the frustration teammate Jack Wilshire.

At the other end, Crouch hammered a thunderous effort into the side-netting after out-smarting Kieran Gibbs following a hopeful punt forward from Cameron.

As the half wore on you could sense the visitors growing in stature in the game, and they will probably feel that they should have taken the lead when Cazorla was freed through on goal, but thankfully Begovic was equal to his effort.

The final attempt during the initial 45 minutes fell to the home side as Arnautovic and Pieters linked up well to supply Whelan, who forced Szczesny into a superb save down to his left to keep the scoreline level.

Hughes’ side continued from where they left off at the start of the second half with both Nzonzi and Crouch testing the Gunners’ Polish stopper during a dominant opening 20 minutes.

Crouch, who has netted seven goals against the Londoners throughout his career, should have made it eight shortly before the hour mark when he attacked Adam’s delightful centre, but failed to make the required contact to send the ball into the back of the net.

As had been the case in previous years, Arsenal were having real problems dealing with balls coming into the box, and that was evident once again before the hour mark as Crouch glanced Arnautovic’s sublime cross at goal, only for the fingertips of Szczesny to deny him.

From the resulting corner Cameron hammered a strike wide of goal from 10-yards, when he will have felt disappointed not to have hit the target in the same manner that he did in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium earlier in the season.

Midway through the half Wenger made his first changes by introducing both Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain off the bench in a bid to rejuvenate his clearly struggling side.

The pair struggled to make an immediate impact as the home side continued to dictate proceedings however, with Arnautovic and Crouch really impressing in their attacking roles.

That said, the quality of Adam, the tenaciousness of Whelan and the composure of Nzonzi at the heart of midfield were also key to the home side’s impressive showing.

After a hectic period in the game, things had initially appeared to be slowing up as the clock ticked down towards the 80-minute mark, but a clever flick from Walters saw the ball flick the outstretched arm of Koscielny, leaving the referee with no option but to award the home side a penalty.

Under intense pressure, Walters brilliantly dispatched the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net to send the majority of supporters inside the stadium into absolute delirium.

One could have been two minutes later when an outstanding run from Arnautovic very nearly resulted in Walters being freed through on goal.

Late on Arsenal substitute Mesut Ozil hammered a powerful effort inches wide of goal from an acute angle, before Yaya Sanogo thankfully hooked over the bar from 10-yards after being teed up by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain four minutes into stoppage time.

    QUICK FACTS

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