Arsenal suffer blow as Wolves edge to safety

Arsenal slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Stoke on Sunday, all but extinguishing the Gunners’ faint Premier League title hopes.

First-half goals from Kenwyne Jones and Arsenal old boy Jermaine Pennant followed by a late Jonathan Walters strike secured a deserved win for the Potters at the Britannia Stadium.

But the defeat means Arsenal are effectively out of the title race, and they will be eliminated from contention later on Sunday if Manchester United avoid defeat against Chelsea.

Arsenal, who had scored a 1-0 victory over United last Sunday, were always struggling to impose themselves as Stoke warmed up for next weekend’s FA Cup final against Manchester City in style.

Stoke took the lead on 28 minutes, when Pennant swung in a free-kick from the right which fell to Jones who deflected the ball in off his torso from close range.

The goal was especially sweet for Stoke, who had lodged an official complaint earlier this season when Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accused Tony Pulis’s team of using “rugby” tactics against goalkeepers.

Stoke’s fans greeted Jones’ opener with gleeful chants of “1-0 to the rugby team” and a chorus of the Twickenham rugby anthem Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

It got better for Stoke five minutes before half-time, when a long-range effort from Pennant took a deflection off Johan Djourou and looped beyond Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny for 2-0.

Robin van Persie pulled a goal back to give Arsenal hope on 81 minutes but Stoke hit back almost immediately through Walters after another defensive lapse from the Gunners.

Earlier on Sunday, Wolves edged closer to Premier League survival with a 3-1 victory over midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion that lifted them out of the relegation zone.

Scottish striker Steven Fletcher scored either side of an Adlene Guedioura strike as Mick McCarthy’s side moved up to 17th spot at the expense of Blackpool, who dropped down to 18th, one point behind.

Peter Odemwingie scored West Brom’s lone goal from the penalty spot on 55 minutes after Guedioura brought down Jerome Thomas.

The victory at Molineux means Wolves’ bid to beat the drop is in their own hands, with only matches against Sunderland and out-of-form Blackburn to come.

Wolves took the lead after 15 minutes, when Algerian international Guedioura chested a corner into the path of Fletcher who made no mistake from close range.

The home side doubled their lead on 28 minutes as West Brom’s vulnerability from set-pieces was exposed once again.

Stephen Hunt whipped in a dangerous corner from the left and this time Fletcher turned creator, heading back across the face of goal to an unmarked Guedioura who volleyed in for 2-0.

Shortly after half-time Wolves took what looked like an unbeatable lead when a blunder from Baggies defender Abdoulaye Meite—miscontrolling a long pass forward from Wolves defender Kevin Foley—to let in Fletcher.

West Brom’s supporters were given a flicker of hope 10 minutes into the second half when Odemwingie rifled in his penalty to make it 3-1. - AFP


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