First and foremost, my wishes and thoughts goes out to Aaron Ramsey. May he get well soon. These are the moments when you realise that this is just a game. No matter how or what happens, it sickens you to see things like this happen. The lad is just at the beginning of his career and a blossoming one at that, to have something like this happen is a dreadful thing. Hopefully we’ll have more news of the extend of the horrific leg break once the doctors get a real good look at it. At the moment, it really doesn’t matter how long he is out as long as Ramsey is fine.
After the result of the earlier kick-off, Arsenal and everyone else associated with the club knew that this was a crunch game. With Man City completing their double over Chelsea this season, Arsenal could potentially go within 3 points of the leaders if they break their duck at Britannia Stadium. Thankfully, in spite of the horror moment, the players picked themselves up and gone on to win the match. Even though the result would have made no help to poor Ramsey, at least it did not happen in vain.
However, a win was looking very unlikely right from the off. Arsenal again succumbed to another Stoke City throw in. Delap’s long throw was flicked on by Ramsey’s tormentor, Ryan Shawcross and eventually found Danny Pugh at the back post. Left by Eboue, the ex United player had the simplest of headers to guide the ball into an unguarded net. I’ve said that we needed to prevent flick-ons before the game but unfortunately this happened anyway. Campbell, Vermaelen and Bendtner were very slow to react and allow the ball to reach the Stoke defender. Frankly, from here on it could go very bad for our title charge as the players took a lot of time to recover from conceding early. Thankfully we did.
Arsenal started to impose themselves in the game and although it does nothing to the shot on goal column, at the least we were in control of the match and in a way stopped Stoke from attacking us. Right until the final whistle it was all Arsenal. Fabregas’ peach perfect cross found Bendtner inside the box, and Big B provided us with a way back into the game. That is his second goal in as many games. A solid header that found the top corner. A real striker’s goal. That will improve him confidence by leaps and bounds.
Midway through the second half, the Ramsey incident happened and it knocked the stuffing out of both sets of players. It must have been horrible for those who were there at St. Andrews two years ago, to witness another leg break in a title chasing season. The likes of Fabregas and Clichy could very easily have given up and they could hardly be faulted by doing so. But like a real captain and professional, Fabregas rallied the troops and gave it a right go. He was everywhere, getting on the ball and moving it around. Credit to Clichy as well who showed maturity to encourage Vermaelen who was looking visibly distraught by the incident. Again no blame could be attached to the Belgian for doing so.
Before the leg break, Ramsey had a very decent shout for a penalty but was turned down. Referee Peter Walton did not refuse the second appeal when Bendtner’s flick found a Stoke defender’s hand instead of Walcott. Putting aside the nerves of the title race as well as the tragedy to a fellow professional and friend, Fabregas stepped up and calmly slotted in the penalty in the bottom left corner of Sorenson’s goal. As expected, the captain dedicated the goal to his injured colleague. However we should have had another penalty as Bendtner was bundled over in the box after being picked out superbly by Fabregas. The referee was not so generous this time.
With only 10 men on the pitch, Stoke were never able to come back to equalise but Vermaelen made sure of it. From a short corner, Rosicky’s shot from outside of the box was stopped by Sorenson but Fabregas immediately seized onto the rebounded and lays the ball on a plate for Vermaelen to score his seventh goal of the league campaign. Game over and three points to Arsenal.
Remembering of what happened at St. Andrews two years ago, a draw or a loss would’ve knocked the wind out of Arsenal’s sails. Going on to win after witnessing a horrendous incident are marks of new found maturity for this group of young players. We are now right back in the hunt for the league title. My perfect wish is for Ramsey to go on and lift the trophy in front of his fellow professional the same way Robert Pires got his in 2002.