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Barclays Premier League

Emirates Stadium (ATT 59,872) 2nd February 2013 - Kick off 15:00 Ref: C Foy

Arsenal Arsenal vs Stoke City Stoke City

Arsenal 1

L Podolski (78)

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Arsenal 1 Stoke 0: Lukas Podolski free-kick breaks Asmir Begovic's resistance

Last Updated: 03/02/13 3:47pm

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Arsenal gave their hopes of a top-four finish a boost with a 1-0 win over Stoke City, but needed a deflected free-kick to beat the outstanding Asmir Begovic.

Arsene Wenger's side dominated for much of the game and created several clear-cut chances, only to be denied by fine saves from Stoke's stubborn goalkeeper.

Best of the match

  • Man of the match: Asmir Begovic made a string of excellent saves in the first half and was beaten only by a deflection.
  • Goal of the match: The only goal came from the boot of Podolski, but it found the back of the net only because of a wicked rebound off Geoff Cameron.
  • Save of the match: Begovic's strong hand to push Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's well-placed shot was the pick of three fine stops in the first half.
  • Talking point: Stoke City have so often exposed the weaknesses in Arsenal's defence over the years, but they seemed too reluctant to push men forward for fear of getting caught out. Wojciech Szczesny practically had a day off.

However, the Bosnian was left helpless when Lukas Podolski's free-kick 12 minutes from time deflected off Geoff Cameron and into the back of the net.

The result sees Arsenal close to within a point of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who play on Sunday, while Stoke remain tenth.

Arsenal made a high-tempo start, with Theo Walcott's pace proving an early thorn in Stoke's side and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain trying his luck with a shot that flashed wide.

The visitors took 20 minutes to get into the game and eventually had half-chances of their own through Peter Crouch, Ryan Shawcross and Glenn Whelan.

But Arsenal soon returned to the ascendancy and would have led at half-time had it not been for a trio of excellent saves from Begovic.

First, the Bosnian stopped a close-range snap-shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain, before palming a point-blank Laurent Koscielny header to safety.

However, his best stop came five minutes from the break, when Jack Wilshere released Oxlade-Chamberlain, who opened up his body and sent a right-foot shot towards the far corner, only for Begovic to divert it wide with a strong hand.

The break came at the wrong time for Arsenal and they struggled to regain their momentum for the first 20 minutes of the second period.

However, the introduction of the rested Santi Cazorla and Podolski from the substitutes' bench gave them fresh impetus and they soon set up camp in and around Stoke's box.

It looked like the breakthrough would not come, but after Andy Wilkinson brought down Walcott on the edge of the box, Podolski produced the winner courtesy of a helping hand from Cameron.

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Matches

Table

Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Liverpool 34 77
2 Chelsea 34 75
3 Manchester City 33 71
4 Arsenal 34 67
5 Everton 34 66
6 Tottenham Hotspur 34 60
7 Manchester United 33 57
8 Southampton 34 48
9 Newcastle United 34 46
10 Stoke City 34 43
11 Crystal Palace 34 40
12 West Ham United 34 37
13 Hull City 33 36
14 Aston Villa 33 34
15 Swansea City 34 33
16 West Bromwich Albion 33 33
17 Norwich City 34 32
18 Fulham 34 30
19 Cardiff City 34 29
20 Sunderland 33 26