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Stoke City continued their fine home record against Arsenal and dented the Gunners' title hopes as a Jonathan Walters penalty earned the hosts a 1-0 win.
Arsene Wenger's men have won just once in their last 10 trips to Stoke in all competitions and are four points behind leaders Chelsea in the table thanks to Walters' spot-kick 14 minutes from time. Having bounced back from defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League with an impressive 4-1 win over Sunderland last week, Wenger's charges struggled to recapture that form at the Britannia Stadium.
After Peter Crouch missed a handful of opportunities, Walters ensured his side added to their home scalps of Chelsea and Manchester United and extended Arsenal's winless run on the road to three matches in the process. Mark Hughes' side are six points above the bottom three after recording their first Barclays Premier League win since 1 February.
In a closely fought opening, Walters glanced a header just wide of Wojciech Szczesny's right post with 15 minutes gone but saw the flag raised for offside and Santi Cazorla curled an effort high and wide at the other end. Stoke began to assert their dominance after the half-hour and Steven Nzonzi, called up for the injured Peter Odemwingie, saw his cross deflected into the path of Crouch, whose shot rippled the side-netting. At the other end, Jack Wilshere almost got on the end of Giroud's through-ball but the Frenchman's pass was a touch too strong and then there was just enough time remaining in the half for Whelan to test Szczesny from distance.
Crouch fired an acrobatic effort wide of the Arsenal goal within six minutes of the restart and he could have opened the scoring shortly after when he failed to divert Charlie Adam's cross past Szczesny. In a rare Arsenal burst, Wilshere looked set to break through the hosts' defence but the Stoke backline stood strong to deny the England midfielder as they continued to stifle Arsenal's creativity.
After Crouch went close again with a header from Adam's cross, Geoff Cameron fired wide from inside the area, with Wenger opting to introduce Mesut Ozil from the bench in an attempt to offer a threat of their own. However, Stoke seized on their best opportunity of the match after 76 minutes when Laurent Koscielny handled Walters' flick inside the penalty area.
The Ireland forward calmly stroked the ball home to hand the hosts the lead and, while Ozil fired an effort wide eight minutes from time, it was not to be as Arsenal's Stoke hoodoo continued.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes: “We seem to be making a real habit of beating the big sides here at the Britannia Stadium, which is really pleasing. We’ve had some superb results and some very, very good performances here at home, and today was just another one of those.
“I thought the way that we went about our business was absolutely first class. From the very first minute until the last we showed more drive than Arsenal and a lot more intensity in our play too.
“As a consequence of that we created by far the better opportunities in the game, and deservedly took the three points that were on offer. We created a lot of opportunities today, including the penalty, which Jonny Walters superbly dispatched, so all in all we can be incredibly pleased with our work today.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: "We had a good defensive game and we were unlucky to lose the goal, but offensively we didn't create enough.
"I feel going forward we were not good enough to create chances and that's why we got punished.
"You have to give credit to Stoke, they defended well, with resilience, they made the game very physical. We knew that before the game, they have the highest number of fouls in the Premier League. We didn't cope well enough with it."
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