Stoke rebounded from their midweek defeat at Manchester United to seal a hard-fought victory against Arsenal on Saturday.
First-half goals from Peter Crouch, Bojan Krkic and Jon Walters made a mess off Arsenal’s second-half fight-back, as Arsene Wenger’s men ended the day 13 points behind leaders Chelsea and Stoke moved up to 12th place in the table.
Mark Muniesa, Walters and Crouch returned for Stoke after missing Tuesday night’s defeat at Old Trafford, while Wenger brought on teenager Hector Bellerin, Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs for his 100th Premier League start.
Crouch scored the Premier League’s fastest strike since Jay Rodriguez’s 13 seconds opener against Chelsea a year ago, bundling inside the net a Steven Nzonzi cross from close range after 19 seconds.
Bojan doubled Stoke’s advantage, ghosting through a static Arsenal defence at the near post to volley in a Jon Walters cross.
Walters slammed into the roof of the net from close range from a corner- his 100th career goal- in first-half injury time.
Arsene Wenger’s side had made a re-assuring response to their home defeat against United, with Saturday’s visit to the Britannia Stadium coming on the back of three successive wins without conceding a goal. That entire statistic was well in danger at half-time with response at a dire need.
Alexis Sanchez was the first to display a bit of positivity on restart. The Chilean rounded goalkeeper Asmir Begovic following a superb run from halfway, but his shot came off the post.
Bojan was denied his second goal of the game five minutes after the hour mark, when the assistant referee ruled Mame Biram Diouf had interfered with play from an offside position in the build-up to the ex-Barcelona forward’s goal.
Arsenal were awarded a penalty three minutes later after Diouf tripped Mathieu Flamini in the goal area. Santi Cazorla stepped up to convert the spot kick despite Begovic getting his hand on the ball.
Aaron Ramsey volleyed in from Alexis Sanchez corner in the 70th minute as the visitors continued in their bid to salvage a point.
Defender Calum Chambers got his second booking for pulling down Bojan on 78 minutes, leaving Arsenal down to ten men.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the visitors pressed for the match-winner in the closing stages and Begovic dived at full stretch to divert Cazorla’s long-range drive away from goal.
After some display of good second-half attack intent, Arsenal were, lo! hard-donned by the ‘Potters’s’ first half determination.