Gunners crash out of the FA Cup at Stoke

Stoke 3 Arsenal 1

Stoke 3 Arsenal 1

Sol Campbell endured a miserable return to the Arsenal ranks as Stoke clinched a memorable FA Cup win at the Britannia Stadium.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger brought in several youngsters for the fourth-round tie, but the inclusion of Campbell was the most notable selection.

Despite the presence of the former England centre-back, the Gunners were over-powered by Stoke’s physical game.

Ricardo Fuller scored two headers, one in each half, while Dean Whitehead set the seal on a great day for the Potteries club.

Campbell, 35, was making his first appearance for Arsenal since scoring in the 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona in Paris.

His comeback, after spells at Portsmouth and Notts County, came in a much-changed line-up, which featured teenagers Francis Coquelin, Craig Eastmond and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

Wenger included only Cesc Fabregas and Denilson from the side that beat Bolton in midweek to briefly go top of the Premier League.

Stoke, who are on the brink of clinching the signing of England goalkeeper David James, brought in Danny Collins, Glenn Whelan and Fuller.

And they could hardly have got off to a better start, taking the lead after a minute and 11 seconds when their famed long-throw tactic paid off.

Rory Delap’s effort arrowed into the box, bypassing Campbell at the near post, for Fuller to power a header home as Lukasz Fabianski failed to get there first with his punch.

Arsenal struggled against Stoke’s tenacious play, being quickly harassed into mistakes and losing possession.

For a spell, every Stoke set-piece was a problem, while Arsenal’s attacking play produced little of substance.

Fuller’s run on the right past Armand Traore created a good opening for Mamady Sidibe after 25 minutes, but he mis-hit a hooked shot from 12 yards out.

Wandsworth-born Eastmond, starting only his second first-team game, was slowly growing into the game with good positioning and effective passing from a holding role, and steadily Arsenal began to impose their passing game.

One late Ryan Shawcross tackle into Fabregas’ skins deserved more than just the free-kick referee Martin Atkinson awarded, and the Arsenal captain clearly made his feeling felt to the Stoke defender.

Stoke might have had a penalty when Denilson caught Fuller late in the box, but referee Atkinson waved away appeals.

But three minutes before the break, Arsenal were level. Fabregas’ short free-kick square to Denilson caught Stoke napping. It resulted in a low drive that clipped two defenders before flashing past Thomas Sorensen into the bottom corner.

The Danish goalkeeper, who has been in discussions with boss Tony Pulis over his future ahead of James’ imminent arrival, could have done more to keep the ball out.

Arsenal should have made a greater impact after equalising, but they were being constantly pushed back.

And it took a brave interception from Coquelin, a yard out, to stop Matthew Etherington from scoring on the far post after 64 minutes.

Then Delap missed his connection in the six-yard box after another Etherington run and cross.

Arsenal then threw on the big guns, with Andrey Arshavin, Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey replacing Emmanuel-Thomas, Theo Walcott and Coquelin in the 70th minute.

The new faces made an initial difference, with quick passing moves that stretched Stoke’s defence.

But Stoke responded with greater resilience, and were back in front after 78 minutes.

Sidibe surged down the right and fired over a cross that evaded Campbell and was headed home by a gleeful Fuller as the home support erupted.

Stoke sent on Tuncay and Salif Diao for Fuller and Delap, and grabbed their third after 85 minutes when Dean Whitehead finished off more good work from wideman Etherington.

Danny Pugh came on for Etherington in stoppage-time, as the Stoke fans took great delight in taunting the beaten Gunners.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox