Arsenal was held to 1-1 draw by Stoke City at the Britannia stadium, as they continued to stumble toward Champions League qualification for next season.

The scoreline was a fair reflection on a match in which Stoke took an early lead through Peter Crouch before Robin Van Persie grabbed an equalizer to leave the Gunners in third place but having played at least a game more than their rivals below.

With Chelsea's progress to the Champions League final in the week increasing the possibilities that only the top three sides in the Premier League will gain entry into the Europe's premier competition next season, there was much pressure on Arsenal going into Saturday's fixture.

Under those circumstances, Stoke is not the ideal side to be playing. And with a fervent atmosphere at the Britannia Stadium, the home side pressed and harried Arsenal at a frenetic pace early on.

Nevertheless Arsenal almost broke the deadlock through the PFA and Football Writers' Player of the year, Robin van Persie. Tomas Rosicky cross to the back post to find the prolific Dutchman, but Asmir Begovic did superbly to get down at his near post and turn the ball away.

And just a minute later Arsenal found themselves behind as Stoke made it 1-0 to ramp up the atmosphere in the Potteries even more. Matthew Etherington received the ball on the left and floated a perfect ball for a trademark Peter Crouch header low into the corner past Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal responded well to the early disappointment, though, and was back on level terms within six minutes. Some neat play by Yossi Benayoun saw the ball arrive at the feet of Rosicky, who created half a yard of space before chipping a stylish ball to the back post where Robin van Persie had the simplest of tasks of knocking the ball into the net from barely a couple of meters out.

And just minutes later things might have gotten even better for the Gunners. Bacary Sagna, forward from right back, played a dangerous cross in that allowed Gervinho to get ahead of his maker, but the Ivorian completely missed his header with the goal at his mercy.

Sagna was again the architect as the Arsenal looked to get in front at the start of the second half. The Frenchman was found in space down the right and crossed the ball in for Van Persie whose header was well held by Begovic going across to his right.

The second-half progressed with Arsenal, as expected having much of the play but unable to create any clear-cut opportunities. At the other end Stoke threatened only intermittently through their familiar aerial assaults on the box.

Arsenal did have a big shout for a penalty in the 75th minute. Benayoun going down under a challenge from behind from Glenn Whelan, but, despite the protests, referee Chris Foy determined that there was not enough contact to warrant a spot kick.

And despite a desperate clearance from a Rory Delap throw-in in injury time, neither side did enough to warrant taking all three points. The highlight of the day for Arsenal will likely be witnessing the scoreline from the DW Stadium where Champions League-qualification rivals Newcastle went down to a shock 4-0 defeat by Wigan.


stok 1- 0 ar hoofoot.com by hoofoot


stoke11 by arsenalist