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Fright for Arsenal before Stoke bow out of FA Cup
Updated: 2005-01-10 09:33

Champions Arsenal were given an FA Cup fright by second division Stoke City before reaching the fourth round with a 2-1 comeback victory.

Stoke led 1-0 at the break and had a goal disallowed, another effort cleared off the line and a shot against the bar before Dutchman Robin van Persie scored the winner at Highbury on Saturday.

Jose Antonio Reyes (L) of Arsenal celebrates his equaliser against Stoke City with teammate Jermaine Pennant during their third round F.A. cup match at Highbury in north London.[AFP]

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger rested Thierry Henry, the Premier League's top scorer last season, and was missing several other first-team regulars through injury.

Wenger, whose team were semi-finalists last season and won the last of the club's nine FA Cups in 2003, told reporters: "You had everything you needed for a great Cup game.

"We were 1-0 down at halftime and we had a very young side. It became interesting."

But the Frenchman added: "We just had enough quality to get through. Overall, I feel we had so much possession and we always looked like we could score in the second half."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis said: "We had good opportunities, they weren't fazed. But I was also expecting that Arsenal could step up the game and do something different. They can do that."

Stoke striker Ade Akinbiyi, who had failed to make his mark at Premier League level during a spell at Leicester City from 2000-2002, was a constant threat to the favourites.

He had a first-half goal disallowed for a foul after he challenged defender Philippe Senderos -- a harsh decision even according to the Arsenal manager.

Wenger said: "I've seen it again, for me there was not a lot wrong in there...there was maybe a strong shoulder challenge but that's acceptable."

Akinbiyi was back in the thick of it just before halftime when his powerful header was only parried by keeper Jens Lehmann, playing his first game since November, and Wayne Thomas smashed the loose ball into the roof of the net.

Reyes got the 50th minute equaliser with a stinging first-time shot from inside the area after Stoke thought they had cleared a dangerous cross from Kolo Toure.

Another defender, Gael Clichy, saved Arsenal in the 61st minute when he cleared a Chris Greenacre effort off the line and the woodwork saved the champions' blushes when a dipping Akinbiyi shot beat Lehmann and bounced out.

Arsenal got their winner three minutes later when winger Jermaine Pennant crossed from the right and Van Persie flicked the ball home.

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