They call themselves a rugby team and sing Swing Low. Whilst Stoke City are not the physical side they were under Tony Pullis, they still have a nasty side with Mark Hughes. And for once, their blatant cheating did not pay.
Timewasting at every opportunity, questions have to be asked of the referee as to why goal keeper Lee Grant was not book in the first half for taking over 30 seconds to take a free kick. Fans pay a lot of money to watch a football match. Not to watch a goal keeper take a sip of his drink, dry his hands, kick his boots on the post, change where he is taking the goal kick from and then wait a few more seconds before kicking it.
Stoke City clearly went out with a game plan. To waste as much time as possible. And it ended up catching up with them.
A couple of times during the game Stoke City players went down, crying wolf, pretending to be injured in an attempt to slow the game down and take the intensity out. To waste time.
2 minutes into the second half, they were at it again. Erik Pieters going down holding his hamstring, his back, and his head. He could not decide which one he had hurt. 1 minute of treatment on the pitch in an attempt to get time and intensity taken out of the game.
And then Arsenal got their revenge. With Pieters off the pitch, having had to walk from behind the goal to the half way line to come on, Mesut Ozil drifted in unmarked and unfollowed to lob the keeper with a header. At this point Pieters was barely in his own half. Had he not faked injury, he would have been on the pitch and likely the man to follow Ozil back in.
The fact that Pieters remained on the pitch for the entire game showed how little he was injured. He was not. And his cheating ended up costing his side a goal. 2-1 Arsenal.
Arsenal’s third goal made history.
At no point in the history of the game have a side surrounded the referee due to him NOT giving a free kick. And that is exactly what Stoke City did.
Alexis Sanchez was crudely bought down on the edge of the area, following up was serial offender Charlie Adam who stamped on the Chilean. As Stoke City players stopped waiting for a free kick, Alex Iwobi appeared clear in the box slotting it past Lee Grant, whilst Lee Mason waved play on.With Arsenal players celebrating the goal that would take the club top of the table, Stoke City plays surrounded the referee. Demanding to know why he waved play on. Why he did not give a free kick AGAINST them. It was hilarious to watch unfold.
Stoke had attempted to time waste, foul and kick Arsenal off the pitch. And it was a foul which was not giving that was their undoing.
Back in 2007, Cesc Fabregas approached Mark Hughes at the end of a drab 0-0 draw against Blackburn. Hughes takes over the story: “When we shook hands at the end, the young man asked me a question which I thought was disrespectful. He asked me if I had played for Barcelona and when I said yes, he shook his head as if in disbelief. Then he said, ‘Well, that wasn’t Barcelona football’.”
And he is the same again at Stoke. Their cheat at all costs football ended up costing them.