Arsenal paid Stoke the compliment of fielding the strongest team that they had available,missing key players Arshavin and Gallas. Stoke included Abdy Faye and Danny Pugh,with Lawrence and Diao giving way.
Stoke imposed themselves on the proceedings from the start,taking a deserved lead in the 8th minute.Delap's throw from the right was headed on by Ryan Shawcross for Danny Pugh to head in at the far post.Stoke bossed a good proportion of the half,but could not add to their score.Arsenal moved the ball around sweetly but did not really penetrate stoke's determined defence,until the 32nd minute when Fabregas,given a little to much space and time out on the right,crossed a fine ball for Bendtner to head back across Sorensen for the equaliser.
Despite much cut and thrust we reached half time all square.
Arsenal were swiftly into their stride after the break,playing their slick brand of flowing fluid passing football at pace.One or two Stoke players were beginning to look decidedly leggy as they had to work hard to cope.
Cope they did.The match turned on a most unfortunate event in the 65th minute just inside the Arsenal half in front of the Seddon stand.Ryan Shawcross challenged with Aaron Ramsey.The midfielder suffered a serious injury and after lengthy treatment he was stretchered away directly to an ambulance.To me it did not seem like an overly physical challenge,nor did it seem in any way malicious.Shawcross was sent off,it would seem,more for the severity of the injury than for the tackle itself.Shawcross was distraught,even before the red card was shown.His previous record speaks for itself....he is not a dirty player.
Stoke's brave 10 men held out, somewhat fortuitously at times,until the first minute of added on time. From a Bendtner flick there was contact between the ball and Danny Pugh's hand adjudged by Ref Walton to be deliberate.Thomas Sorensen guessed correctly,dived to his left,but failed to keep Fabregas' well placed effort out of his net.
Arsenal wrapped things up 2 minutes later when Sorensen saved a sharp low shot but could not hold the ball,Fabregas , in quickest, squared for a Vermaelan tap in.
But the game will probably be remembered for the serious injury to Ramsey,and Shawcross's disconsolate trudge from the field of play.