Potters punish Gunners
Pulis' men warm up for cup final in style
Last Updated: 08/05/11 5:28pm
Pennant: On target against his former employers
Stoke warmed up for next weekend's FA Cup final with a 3-1 win over lacklustre Arsenal.
Kenwyne Jones and former Gunner Jermaine Pennant netted in the first half for the Potters, as Tony Pulis' side put in a thoroughly professional display at the Britannia Stadium.
Robin van Persie pulled one back for Arsenal late on, but Jon Walters restored Stoke's two-goal advantage inside 60 seconds.
As has become custom, Arsene Wenger's visitors saw plenty of the ball but were unable to turn possession into chances.
They fell behind on 28 minutes as Pennant fizzed over a free-kick from the right and Jones bundled the ball home from close range.
Stoke then added a second five minutes before the interval when Pennant surged forward and saw a 20-yard drive flick off Johan Djourou and into the top corner.
It almost got worse for Arsenal before half-time, but Walters saw a shot from the tightest of angles cannon off the face of the crossbar.
Things were going so well for the Potters, but early in the second half they suffered an injury scare as Robert Huth was forced off and he must now be doubtful for a Wembley meeting with Manchester City.
Van Persie then had Stoke twitching nine minutes from the end as he took matters into his own hands and drilled low under Asmir Begovic.
The Potters need not have worried, though, as they went straight up the other end and, following a defensive error from Djourou, Walters poked past Wojciech Szczesny to wrap up the points.
Much of the pre-match focus had been on the return of midfielder Aaron Ramsey to the ground where he horrifically broke his leg in two places last season and a first meeting with Ryan Shawcross, the player whose tackle inflicted the injury.
As a result, despite Stoke's short time in the Premier League, these two sides have managed to build up plenty of history, with Wenger heavily critical of what he perceives as Stoke's over-physical style.
But the more relevant history related to Stoke's threat from set-pieces and Arsenal's tendency to concede soft goals.
Both were prevalent at the Britannia Stadium and contributed significantly to the result.
Their problems were mainly all of their own making, typified by the opening goal which was scored with far too much ease.
Goalkeeper Szczesny had already flapped at one cross which Pennant hooked wide when he was left totally exposed by his defence in the 28th minute.
Andrey Arshavin's needless push on Pennant close to the corner flag allowed the winger to clip over a free-kick and Jones, having evaded Djourou far too easily, simply jogged in and let the ball hit him on the chest to divert it over the line.
The lack of effort required by the Trinidad and Tobago international to score against the league's third-placed side was embarrassing and Jones, presumably surprised by such a gift, did not even celebrate.
Arsenal should have been ahead well before that point though as the usually prolific van Persie blazed over from 10 yards when put through by Ramsey's through-ball.
Stoke fans' chant of '1-0 to the rugby team' was aimed at Wenger but the only direct thing about Stoke's second was the run of Pennant.
Cutting in from the left he was allowed to advance unchallenged and when Djourou belatedly came to meet him the winger fired in a shot which deflected off the defender and over Szczesny.
Arsenal were spared further embarrassment by the crossbar just before the break when Walters shot from a narrow angle on the left of the penalty area.
Strikers Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh replaced Ramsey and Arshavin for the second half but it was the other end of the pitch where the Gunners were lacking as within seconds of the restart Robert Huth headed over Pennant's corner.
In the ensuing melee Alex Song appeared to catch the defender in the face with an elbow which went unnoticed by referee Mark Halsey.
There was greater concern for Huth when he suffered an injury scare six days before the FA Cup final, limping off with a knee problem.
For all the complaints about Stoke's approach to the game, Bendtner was the first player to be booked when he upended Pennant close to the touchline, although the Potters winger soon followed him into the book for his retaliation to Jack Wilshere's studs-up challenge which also earned him a caution.
As the match entered its closing stages chances came at both ends; Begovic launching himself at Van Persie's feet to block an almost-certain goal and Glenn Whelan forcing Szczesny to tip his shot around the post from a counter-attack.
But with nine minutes remaining Begovic's slip up in allowing Van Persie's shot to roll underneath him gave Arsenal a glimmer of hope.
But, true to form, a minute later Djourou's miserable afternoon was complete when his half-clearance fell to Walters who poked home.Stoke still have a cup final to look forward to, for Arsenal there is only next season.
|Stoke City||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||11|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||17||31|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||17||17|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||17||17|