Podolski goal sees Arsenal scrape past Stoke City
Arsenal 1-0 Stoke City
Lukas Podolski came off the bench to score a late deflected free-kick and give Arsenal a 1-0 win over Stoke City in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium.
The visitors defended stoutly throughout and Arsenal missed some good first half chances of a game that looked destined for a scoreless draw.
However, Arsene Wenger will be pleased his side kept going as another improved second half display forced the issue and gave the Gunners a fifth straight home win over Stoke in the Premier League.
Deadline day signing Nacho Monreal got a first start ahead of the under fire Andre Santos, while Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey dropped to the bench for the returning Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby.
Captain Thomas Vermaelen missed out through injury but he wasn’t missed in a largely uneventful first half where Stoke rarely threatened Wojciech Szczesny’s goal.
The Potters were typically resolute in defence for much of the first period and the Gunners got a little frustrated at not being able to fashion many chances.
However, the few opportunities they did get were good and they should have gone in at half time at least a goal ahead.
Funnily enough, it was Stoke’s inability to deal with Arsenal corners that created the chances; the first being headed along the six-yard line and falling to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but his shot was straight at Begovic.
Another corner saw Olivier Giroud get a free header at the back post,which he inexplicably headed back across goal to be cleared, before the resulting cross found Laurent Koscielny but his header was saved brilliantly again.
Begovic was the difference and he tipped a curling Oxlade-Chamberlian shot round the post to round off a brilliant first half performance.
Stoke regrouped in the second half and Arsene Wenger’s side could only find space to cross, which the visitors were more than comfortable dealing with.
It was going to take something special or fortunate to beat Begovic and it was the latter with just 12 minutes left.
Andy Wilkinson fouled Theo Walcott on the edge of the area and the resulting free-kick from second half substitute Lukas Podolski was cruelly deflected in off the foot of Geoff Cameron.
There was come confusion after the goal as a flag from assistant referee confused things, but referee Chris Foy awarded the goal after a breif conversation.
Replays showed Walcott was in an offside postition when the ball was struck but he was well out of the way and the ball had definitely hit a Stoke player.
Arsenal deserved the goal for showing much more urgency in after the break but Stoke will have felt hard done by after a strong defensive performance.
The last few minutes were livend up with a yellow card for Ryan Shawcross after a poor challenge on Koscielny and a small altercation between substitute Michael Owen and Arteta following a strong tackle form the Spaniard.
Stoke brought on Owen as part of a triple change of strikers but they could not change the course of a game they had set out to defend in.
Wenger will be delighted with the victory and the fact his side showed good determination when confronted with stubborn opponents.
Chelsea's defeat at Newcaslte United and Everton drawing at home against struggling Aston Villa made the victory all the more sweet.