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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
18:30 17th January 2016

City Remain Seventh Following Gunners Stalemate

STOKE CITY claimed a thoroughly deserved point from Sunday’s live televised showdown with Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium.

The Potters thought they had earned all three points right at the death when Jonathan Walters’ glanced header seemed destined to hit the back of the net, only for Aaron Ramsey to come to the visitors’ aid with a clearance off the line.

In truth a defeat may well have been harsh on the North Londoners, who displayed their title-credentials with some slick football throughout proceedings but were unable to find a way through a stubborn Stoke backline and the impressive Jack Butland.

The England number two, and his opposite number Petr Cech, were undoubtedly two of the key performers on the field - both making crucial saves in either half to earn their side a share of the spoils in what was a very entertaining affair.

It was arguably the hosts who had the better of the opportunities, particularly in the second period, with Spanish striker Joselu twice going close with long range efforts, whilst Bojan forced Cech into a stunning save at his near post as the hosts upped the ante somewhat.

Republic of Ireland international Walters went closest though deep into stoppage time after flicking an in-swinging Charlie Adam corner beyond the Gunners stopper, which Ramsey hacked off the line, before Joselu forced Cech into another tremendous save with a thumping volley on the rebound.

At the other end of the pitch Butland continued to enhance his ever-growing reputation - producing a superb save to thwart in-form frontman Olivier Giroud in the first-half before acrobatically finger-tipping Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s curling strike over the bar.

Prior to kick-off Mark Hughes named an unchanged side from the one that secured a 3-1 triumph over Norwich City on home turf four days earlier, meaning that both Xherdan Shaqiri and Geoff Cameron remained sidelined through injury.

Arsene Wenger had injury problems of his own with Alexis Sanchez failing to overcome a hamstring strain in time to return to the fold, whilst Mesut Ozil, a star for the Gunners in recent weeks, was missing too after picking up a knock to his foot in training.

The Frenchman also resisted the temptation of thrusting new signing Mohamed Elneny into his eleven - instead allowing the Egyptian to sample his first taste of Premier League football from the substitutes bench.

Still, despite the absence of two of the most creative players in the top-flight, Ozil and Shaqiri, both sides were able to put on a show for the watching audience, and whilst neither was able to break the deadlock there was plenty of entertaining action to keep the supporters in warm spirits in what were incredibly low temperatures.

Not that the home fans in attendance needed any further encouragement to up the decibel levels anyway - with the visit of Arsenal always one to catch the imagination of the supporters in these parts.

They very nearly had the roof off the stadium when the encounter drew towards a potentially monumental climax, but the Gunners held on for dear life and secured themselves a point – one which was enough to take them back to the summit of the table.

For Stoke, the point kept them positioned nicely in seventh spot, and well on course to build upon last season's record breaking campaign, ahead of next weekend’s trip to second place Leicester City.

    QUICK FACTS

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