Premier League - Win boosts Arsenal title hopes

Eurosport - Sat, 27 Feb 19:33:00 2010

Arsenal's title hopes were boosted by a 3-1 win over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium in a match marred by a horrific injury to Gunners midfielder Aaron Ramsey.

2009-10 Premier League Arsenal's Fabregas celebrates scoring against Stoke City - 0

Danny Pugh had given Stoke the lead with his first Premier League goal for the Potters, before Nicklas Bendtner equalised just after the half-hour mark. After Ryan Shawcross was sent off for a challenge on Ramsey that almost certainly broke the young Welshman's leg, Arsenal rallied to the win via a 90th-minute penalty from Cesc Fabregas and a Thomas Vermaelen tap-in deep in injury time.

Ramsey went into a 50/50 challenge for a loose ball with Ryan Shawcross midway through the second half, and it was immediately obvious that he was seriously hurt. Shawcross was shown a red card for the challenge, and the Stoke defender looked as distraught as Ramsey's team-mates as he left the field.

Ramsey's injury, eerily reminiscent of the one sustained by Gunners striker Eduardo against Birmingham City two years ago, cast a shadow over the remainder of a match which, up until that point, had been an entertaining one.

Stoke played at a high tempo right from the kick-off, and Arsenal were given no time or space to settle into their quick-passing rhythm.

Just as in their FA Cup loss at the Brittania Stadium in January, Arsenal failed their first test from a Rory Delap long throw. Shawcross glanced the ball to the far post where Pugh stooped to head Stoke in front on eight minutes.

The Gunners finally began to hit their stride midway through the half, as Fabregas's chest and volley caught goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen off guard, but the Dane managed to scramble the shot wide.

Fabregas then curled in an inviting cross that Bendtner rose to send an excellent header right into the top corner for his second goal in his last two games.

From then on until the break, Arsenal put the hosts under plenty of pressure, Shawcross's aerial dominance greatly helped Stoke get half-time on terms.

Arsenal had appeals for a penalty turned down early in the second half. Fabregas played Ramsey into the box and the midfielder went to ground after a shove in the back from Stoke skipper Abdoulaye Faye.

Emmanuel Eboue had an impressive game in the Arsenal attack, and the Ivorian was denied a goal he richly deserved when Sorensen tipped his fearsome strike over the bar.

Arsenal were carrying all of the momentum in the build-up to Ramsey's injury on 66 minutes, and after the 19-year-old was loaded into an ambulance the match understandably took a while to regain its impetus.

It was a real test of Arsenal's championship credentials, and the Gunners raised their game on a ground where they lost last season to launch a late onslaught that Stoke simply could not resist.

Substitute Eduardo fired wide from close range and Bendtner had a shot inside the area blocked by Robert Huth as Stoke desperately clung on for a point. They were finally breached when Pugh handballed and referee Peter Walton pointed to the spot. Sorensen got a hand to Fabregas's spot-kick, but Spaniard put sufficient power on it to score.

Fabregas also had a hand in the third goal. Sorensen beat away Tomas Rosicky's shot from distance, but the Arsenal captain pounced on the rebound and played the ball across to Vermaelen for a simple tap-in.

In breaking their hoodoo in the Potteries, Arsenal have re-established themselves as title contenders.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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