Arsenal's title hopes end with loss at Stoke

Stoke 3 Arsenal 1

Stoke once again exposed Arsenal's soft underbelly with a deserved victory which finally extinguished the dying embers of the Gunners' outside chance of making a late run for the Barclays Premier League title.

First-half goals from Kenwyne Jones and Jermaine Pennant were conceded far too easily and further defensive weaknesses were exposed after the break as the Londoners got themselves back into the game late on only to throw away their good work seconds later.

Robin van Persie hit his 19th in his last 21 matches, the eighth time in succession he had scored away from home, with less than 10 minutes remaining only for Jon Walters to go straight down the other end and make it 3-1.

It was a defeat which put the top of the table beyond reach for Arsene Wenger's side, although in truth they had blown their chances of ended a six-year wait for a trophy several weeks ago.

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 Wojciech 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 Johan 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 host's approach to the game, Bendtner was the first player to be booked when he upended Pennant close to the touchline, although the Stoke winger soon followed 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.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits