Arsenal held 1-1 by Stoke in Premier League

Stoke: Arsenal missed a chance to pull away from Newcastle in the race for third place in the English Premier League, drawing 1-1 with Stoke on Saturday.

The Gunners went behind in the 10th minute at Britannia Stadium when Matthew Etherington picked out Peter Crouch who rose above the defense to head firmly past Wojciech Szczesny.

Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie equalised in the 15th, running through the defense to meet a cross from Tomas Rosicky for his 28th league goal.

Arsenal could have gone six points clear of Newcastle in the fight for an automatic Champions League spot next season.

Arsenal remains third, four points ahead of Newcastle which lost 4-0 at relegation-threatened Wigan.

Arsene Wenger made two changes from the Arsenal team that drew with Chelsea last week. Gervinho and Yossi Benayoun replaced the injured Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while former Gunner Jermaine Pennant returned to the Stoke side.

Arsenal had lost on three of its previous four visits to Stoke but had two great early chances - the first in the sixth minute when Van Persie played in Rosicky, but his shot lacked power and was held by Asmir Begovic.

The same duo combined moments later as Rosicky picked out Van Persie at the back post, and his header drew a terrific save from Begovic low at his near post.

Having survived those scares, Stoke went down the other end and took the lead through Crouch who planted his header beyond Szczesny.

Arsenal hit back strongly and Van Persie claimed his 35th goal of the season, scoring from inside the six-yard box.

The visitors continued to threaten Begovic`s goal, with Laurent Koscielny heading over the bar and Gervinho missing a cross completely six yards out before ending a fine run with a wild shot.

Arsenal was grateful to Szczesny for some alert goalkeeping in the opening minutes of the second half as he twice punched away dangerous crosses, one from Etherington and one from Pennant.

At the other end, Van Persie got his head to Bacary Sagna`s cross 10 yards out, but could not beat Begovic.

Bureau Report