Saturday, February 27, 2010

Horrific Injury To Aaron Ramsey Mars Arsenal's Vital EPL Win Over Stoke

Arsenal showed the tough side of their character Saturday as they battled to a 3-1 win over Stoke City in the face of adversity at Britannia Stadium.

Having gone behind, the Gunners also had to deal with the loss of Aaron Ramsey through an horrific leg break, before scoring three unanswered goals for a win that moved them to just three points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

This was always going to be one of Arsenal's hardest games from their remaining fixtures. Britannia has never been a happy hunting ground for Arsene Wenger, and the Gunners knew they would have to overcome an intense physical battle if they were to maintain their title challenge.

Stoke City took the lead through a headed goal from ex-Manchester United youth Danny Pugh after he stooped to meet a headed flick on from another ex-United player, Ryan Shawcross.

Arsenal knew exactly what to expect, and when Rory Delap set himself up for the long throw, it was disappointing to see the Gunners deal with the set piece so poorly. Thomas Vermaelan played the percentages and dropped right off Shawcross, who was allowed to meet the ball unchallenged; the Belgian then played Pugh onside as he opened the scoring.

This was the fourth goal Arsenal have conceded from a Delap throw-in, so you would like to think that they would have learned their lesson by now.

The much-maligned Niclas Bendtner equalized with an exquisite lofted header, before Cesc Fabregas scored from the spot and then turned provider for Vermaelan, who tapped in from close range.

It was a vital win for Wenger's young guns. With Chelsea surprisingly losing 4-2 to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal needed to win.

The game, however, will be most remembered for the tragic injury to Welsh wunderkind Aaron Ramsey.

Shawcross was in possession and took a very heavy touch that opened the ball up to Ramsey to take. The young Gunner then showed his inexperience by pulling on the ball while the Stoke man went in to tackle, and with the ball having been cleared, Shawcross caught Ramsey just above the ankle and shattered it.

The injury was so bad that TV producers refused to replay the incident.

The Stoke player was distraught as Ramsey writhed in pain on the ground. It was an accidental tackle that the referee overreacted to by sending Shawcross off, the reactions of certain Arsenal players perhaps guiding the referee's decision.

With the game at 1-1 and with one of their star kids having gone off injured, Arsenal had every excuse to retract back into their shell and see the game out.

But not this one. Arsenal, quite rightly, have been criticized for a lack of character in tough situations. All too often over the last five years have the Gunners capitulated when excuses have presented themselves.

Having learned a valuable lesson from Eduardo da Silva's horrific leg break almost exactly two years ago, the Gunners rolled up their sleeves and battled to a much deserved win.

Led by the phenomenal Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal sprayed the ball around Stoke's 10 men with ease and stretched Tony Pulis' well-drilled side to such an extent that the scoreline could have been far greater.

It is most noteworthy that this was the first time Arsenal have won at Stoke since 1982. An impressive win that will go a long way in determining the title race.

Only three points separates Chelsea on top, with Manchester United and Arsenal at 60 and 58 points, respectively, to the Blues' 61. And with the Gunners having the easiest run in by far, they are very much potential Champions.