Well as per usual we made things difficult for ourselves, but as Alex Ferguscum said on Saturday “We're still in the cup”.
Goal (Stoke) (45) – This should never have happened. Lehmann should have claimed the ball far earlier in the move when the first ball came in. Once he had pushed the ball back into the danger area, rather than round the post from Akinbiyi`s header, they were always going to score. It came totally against the run of play and again a goal from a set piece.
Goal (Arsenal) (50) – No more than we deserved for our explosive start to the second half. A Kolo Toure cross wasn't dealt with and the second ball dropped to Jose. He lashed the ball home with a half volley to get us back on level terms.
Goal (Arsenal) (70) – A typical Arsenal goal, with the finish from the Henry mould. A lightening break saw Reyes set up Pennant for a cross. Jermaine put a whipped ball in, and Van Persie attempted a cheek back heel, which some how gained enough power to get past their keeper, and give us the win.
Man Of The Match – Gael Clichy
Jens Lehmann - 6 - This was not a performance to prove his critics wrong. He really should have claimed the ball from the cross which led to their goal. Despite his best efforts to keep out the first header, the fact is that he shouldn't have allowed them the chance at all. Poor positioning, and didn't help us organise from corners. He did, however, make 2 good saves, but overall I was less than impressed with him today, and fully expect Almunia to be restored to the line up for Bolton next Saturday.
Gael Clichy - 7.5 - My MOTM today. He really did make a huge contribution to the team. No other player covered the ground that he did, and no other player pressed Stoke as much as he did. He was flying up and down the left wing all game, and made three superb tackles to prevent the cross coming in. Stoke rarely threatened from their right, and this was largely due to this mans efforts. His attacking was also good, and he really showed that he is a capable understudy to Ash.
Philippe Senderos - 6.5 - Was out muscled by Akinbiyi on numerous occasions. The physical presence of the Stoke attack seemed to put him off, but he still kept at it for the ninety minutes, which I was pleased with. It is all too easy for players to dip when they are having a tough game, but he stuck with it, and by the end of the match had made many important tackles and was passing the ball forward. Well played to him.
Kolo Toure - 7 - Strong in the air, and matched the Stoke attack stride for stride. He was subjected to some of the most obvious pushing and pulling when running by the side of the attacker, and despite not getting any decisions he still managed to shrug off most of what came his way.
Emmanuel Eboue - 7 - A highly impressive debut. Strong at the back, and was also good in the air. Full of running and overlapped Pennant at every opportunity.
Robert Pires - 6.5 - Went missing for the majority of the first half, but found the pace of the game at the start of the second. At that point he started to show shades of his normal self, but this was not Bobby at his best.
Patrick Vieira - 6.5 - Where was he? He left far too much of the work for Fabregas to deal with and lost the ball many a time. He was better against Man City. A distinctly average performance and he lost the ball quite easily. This was another of his “swings and roundabouts” performances, where he showed shades of brilliance, while looking sluggish in periods.
Cesc Fabregas - 7 - Was left to cope with the Stoke midfield almost single handedly. With Stoke playing 5 across the middle, it was always going to stretch our midfield, but I really feel for Cesc. He must be absolutely knackered after that, as he was doing the work of two men. To add to this, the Stoke midfield had a physical advantage over him, and he was getting brushed aside for much of the game. However, he stayed with it and ended up playing a big part in this win.
Jermaine Pennant - 7 - Sign him up, sign him up, sign him up! His first half display was average, but his second half was great. He bombed down the wing and posed a real threat. A good final ball. My only gripe (you knew there would be one) is that sometimes he overcomplicates things in that old Kanu style. He tries one too many step overs every now and then, which could have been a good ball in instead. But that will come with experience, and overall he was impressive.
Jose Reyes - 7 - A few weeks rest was just what he needed. Today, he was back and as bright as ever. He looked to run at defenders and took his goal well. He could have had more but for a few unfortunate slips.
Robin Van Persie - 7 - He had a great desire and hunger as always. An amazing cheeky goal, and he also could have had more if he had been more aware and composed around the box.
Justin Hoyte - N/A He hardly had a touch after coming on, and on that basis I can't give him a rating.