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February 23, 2011
• Emirates Stadium, London
Referee: P. Walton
• Attendance: 60041
And it's full time here at the Emirates and in a game that seemed to promise so much from the start has left us feeling wanting a bit more. Stoke will be happy enough with their second-half display, but will have wanted to have had more attacking opportunities and less defending to do. Arsenal now go within a point of Manchester United, albeit with an extra game played to their North West counterparts. Thanks for joining Goal.com for the live coverage of Arsenal against Stoke and we hope you join us next time, but for now, good night.
90' + 4'
Arsenal nearly get their second goal in the last minute of the game. Lovely work by Nasri to beat his man to the ball lets him put the ball across the face of goal for Arsharvin, but the Russian fails to meet it and it goes harmlessly out.
The free-kick is well taken by Pennant who came very close to taking away vital points away from his old club, but the effort goes just inches wide, hitting the side netting and warning Arsenal to be alert for the last few minutes.
Stoke find themselves with a corner, but waste their opportunity. However Whelan is brought down by Denilson and a dangerous free-kick is offered to the visitors.
Stoke looking for anything they can get right now, waiting for a mistake from Arsenal, but the Gunners look comfortable on the ball and don't look like letting go of their lead.
Yellow Card Marc Wilson
The home side are holding on to the ball, but not really doing much with it as they look to pass down the few minutes remaining.
The game doesn't look like going anywhere right now with both team's wasting their chances (or at least the few that Stoke have managed) and it's hard to see another goal in this. In reflection of the Potter's second-half performance, the result as it stands would be fair on Tony Pulis' side as they have resisted well against Arsenal's efforts.
Close again from Arsenal. A corner from Wilshire floats to Bendtner who is able to meet the ball with his head with a great effort that is beating Begovic, but the attempt flies over instead.
The intensity of the game has peaked now as both teams look to get the next goal of the game. Stoke remain very hostile in their play as Whitehead brings down Walcott in a messy tackle, causing the attacker to be in some pain and is stretchered off the field, adding to Wenger's injury woes.
Arsenal look like they have found some of that energy they possessed at the beginning of the match, as Arsharvin beats his man as he arrives to the line to the left of the goal and pulls the ball back into the middle for Walcott, but the England international slices his effort well wide and wastes his chance of doubling the lead.
Wilshire finds himself with a chance to get his team's second of the night. The young midfielder arrives at the edge of the Stoke area and shoots with a decent effort and tests Begovic well, even if it was straight at the keeper.
The game seems to have turned into a miss-match of failed Arsenal attacks and Stoke's aggressive stance forcing them off the ball and then going on to lose it back to their opponents.
Pennant looking dangerous again on that right side, the former Arsenal man whipping in a cross into the Gunner's area, but Clichy is there to head clear and his team carry on.
Yellow Card Gael Clichy
Tony Pulis' men seemed to have a had a stimulating talk from their boss at the half-time break and look very fiery; taking more chances and are battling hard to win the ball from the Arsenal players, albeit in a slightly aggressive manner.
The visitors seem to have started the second-half like they needed to and work a free-kick down the line for Pennant to chase and whips in the cross to find his captain, Shawcross, and the defender goes close with his header, but it is deflected clear.
And Stoke kick-start the second-half.
Well it's half-time here at the Emirates and it's all Arsenal pretty much; Stoke have brought about a couple of chances, with only one that looked particularly threatening. A rare Sebastian Squillaci goal is what separates the teams and Arsene Wenger's team will want another in the second period of the game just to settle their nerves probably. See you in 15 minutes.
Yellow Card Jonathan Walters
After Arsharvin wins a free-kick on the edge of the area, Samir Nasri steps up to take it, but wastes the chance from 20 yards and the ball goes wide and out for a goal kick.
And it's John Carew with Stoke's first shot (on target as well), as the Norwegian finds himself with the ball bouncing at his feet some 25 yards out and the striker puts his foot through it and even manages to test the Arsenal keeper who is forced to make a diving save and push it out towards the nearside of the pitch.
Ryan Shawcross soaks up the boos as the Arsenal faithful fondly remind him of the leg breaking tackle him performed on Aaron Ramsey last season, whilst Stoke try to work the ball at the back and see if they can create something out of the long ball, but the home side regain possession once again and keep the Potters at bay.
All of Arsenal's possession is finally used to conjure some sort of attack. The ball is worked between their players on the left and eventually finds its way to Wilshire who feeds Fabregas' replacement, Arshavin, and the Russian is able to get a shot off from distance, forcing a save from Begovic.
Over half way into the first 45 minutes and Tony Pulis' players have had just the one attack to write home about in the form of a corner that came to nothing and have been defending ever since. Carew cannot be happy on his own at the top of their formation with no apparent lifeline from his playmakers.
Arsenal are just enjoying holding the ball right now with no real attacking intent showing after such a hurried start to the game. The visitors are still lacking any direct involvement in the match letting their hosts look very comfortable.
Injured or just worried, Fabregas actually leaves the pitch. A slightly edgy moment for Gunner's fans who will know that they will need their Spanish captain to carry them into the tie at the Nou Camp in a couple of week's time.
After a barrage of home domination, the game is calmed down with Fabregas looking worryingly injured, but he seems to be OK. Stoke need to find themselves some possession to play their way back into this game, even in these early stages.
Assist Nicklas Bendtner
Goal Sébastien Squillaci
Goal!!!! A corner for Arsenal on the right is only managed to be cleared deeper into the area and the ball finds Bendtner who calmly puts the ball back in amongst the mass group of attackers and defenders gets to and Squillaci who gracefully places the ball past Begovic with his head.
Amazing! Wilshire works the ball across the edge of the area and slots the ball through for Walcott who is in space just 6 yards out and shoots across goal, but only manages to hit the ball against the far post on the left. Begovic gets away with it and smoothers the ball.
And Arsenal kick the game off at the Emirates.
Stoke team for tonight: Begovic; Whelan, Huth, Shawcross, Pugh; Pennant, Wilson, Delap, Whitehead; Carew, Walters. Subs: Sorensen, Higgingbotham, Collins, Diao, Wilkinson, Jones, Fuller.
Arsenal team for tonight: Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Clichy; Song, Wilshere, Fabregas; Walcott, Bendtner, Nasri. Subs: Almunia, Gibbs, Eboue, Denilson, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh.
Welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of Arsenal versus Stoke City. A win tonight for the hosts will see them come within just one point of league leaders Manchester United who are in European action tonight. Meanwhile tonight's game is almost one year to the day that Stoke's captain for the match, Ryan Shawcross, made the hideous tackle on Aaron Ramsey, breaking his leg in the process and no one will want such an event repeated this evening.
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