Late flurry against Stoke flatters lucky Arsenal

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrating breaking the deadlock against Stoke from the spot with team-mate Jack Wilshere. The Gabonese striker scored another from a corner before passing up the opportunity for a hat-trick, instead allowing stri
Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrating breaking the deadlock against Stoke from the spot with team-mate Jack Wilshere. The Gabonese striker scored another from a corner before passing up the opportunity for a hat-trick, instead allowing strike partner Alexandre Lacazette to take and convert a late penalty.PHOTO: REUTERS

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal 3

Stoke 0


LONDON • When you are down at the bottom, there is a creeping inevitability that the breaks will go to the opposition and this was Stoke's lament after going down 0-3 to Arsenal in the Premier League yesterday.

Paul Lambert's men had held their own at a typically nervy Emirates Stadium until Bruno Martins Indi stretched to tackle Mesut Ozil in the penalty box.

It looked clumsy but, after TV replays confirmed that the Stoke defender had got a toe to the ball, referee Craig Pawson's penalty award felt like a kick to the guts.

Martins Indi railed at the injustice, telling BBC Sport after the match: "It cost us because we played very well... It was no penalty and the cameras don't lie."

Stoke have only tasted defeat at this venue - their last away win over Arsenal came at Highbury in 1981 - and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set in motion the latest reverse when he converted the spot kick in the 75th minute.

Aubameyang would add a lovely second 11 minutes later, before substitute Alexandre Lacazette's penalty after a barge by Badou Ndiaye in the box gave the scoreline a gloss that had not looked likely at half-time when Arsenal were booed off.

The Gunners had been dreadful in the first half and it was easy to think that they had their minds on Thursday's Europa League quarter-final, first-leg tie against CSKA Moscow.

Arsenal's preoccupation with the Europa League was reflected in Arsene Wenger's line-up and by that in the stands, with the thousands of empty seats a worrying trend for the club.

David Ospina started in place of Petr Cech, while Wenger left Laurent Koscielny, Granit Xhaka and Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of the starting XI. And against opponents with another priority, relegation-threatened Stoke had dared to dream of a bonus but Arsenal sparked towards the end, with the introduction of the fit-again Lacazette on 61 minutes providing some of the impetus.

Aubameyang later said he unselfishly gave up his chance to score a hat-trick to the French striker, who is in line for his first start since mid-February against CSKA, as it "would be good for his confidence".

Wenger admitted in his post-match interview with BBC Sport that it had been a Jekyll and Hyde performance from his side.

"It was a game of two halves for us. We were too sloppy and not sharp enough in the first half. The second half was better as we were much more dynamic and showed more pace, more control and made a difference," he said.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2018, with the headline 'Late flurry against Stoke flatters lucky Arsenal'. Print Edition | Subscribe