Sebastien Squillaci’s eighth minute header gave Arsenal all three points against Stoke, but the win came at a cost after injuries to Theo Walcott and skipper Cesc Fabregas.
French defender Squillaci scored from close range following a dominant opening spell of play by the Gunners. However, they dropped off and allowed Stoke to come back into the contest in the second half.
But Arsene Wenger’s men held on for the win to move within a point of the Premier League leaders Manchester United, while Stoke remain in mid-table on 33 points – six clear of the relegation zone.
Sagna – Djourou – Squillaci – Clichy
Fabregas – Song – Wilshere
Walcott – Bendtner – Nasri
Arsenal made a storming start and should have gone ahead in the second minute when Jack Wilshere finished a mazy run with a pass to Cesc Fabregas, who played in Theo Walcott but the forward hit his strike off the post with keeper Asmir Begovic beaten.
A minute later Fabregas’ high ball was headed down by Nicklas Bendtner to Walcott who fired wide of the mark.
Arsenal were rewarded for their early pressure on eight minutes when they took the lead.
Stoke could not clear a corner and Bendtner’s ball back into the area was headed in from close range by defender Squillaci.
Fabregas was forced out of the action on 14 minutes and it affected the tempo of Arsenal’s play.
However, Stoke barely threatened until the 36th minute when Jon Walters’ knocked the ball down to John Carew and the on-loan Aston Villa hitman’s half-volley from 25 yards was brilliantly saved by Wojciech Szczesny.
Stoke improved after the break and almost levelled on 48 minutes when Ryan Shawcross’ header from a Jermaine Pennant cross deflected off Johan Djourou and dropped wide of the goal.
Robert Huth headed over inside the area from a long Rory Delap throw-in on 58 minutes.
Arsenal did create chances with Wilshere firing at Begovic and Walcott firing wide from eight yards with just the Stoke keeper to beat on 64 minutes.
Pennant fired a free-kick into the side-netting on 89 minutes for Stoke but they could not find a way through giving Arsenal three three points ahead of Sunday’s Carling Cup final against Birmingham.
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