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December 06, 2014

STOKE, England (AP) — Stoke handed Arsenal another dispiriting loss at Britannia Stadium, scoring three goals in the first half and then withstanding a late comeback attempt for a 3-2 victory in the Premier League.

Peter Crouch stunned a lackluster Arsenal side by putting Stoke ahead after just 19 seconds, and the hosts continued to dominate the first half as Bojan Krkic doubled the lead in the 35th and Jonathan Walters smashed in the third just before halftime.

Bojan had a goal ruled out for offside in the second half and Arsenal earned a penalty minutes later that Santi Cazorla converted in the 68th to give the visitors hope. Aaron Ramsey then slotted in the second two minutes later to make for a nervy finish, but Arsenal defender Calum Chambers was sent off for a second booking in the 78th and Stoke held on.

Stoke climbed to 12th place, while Arsenal remained sixth, 13 points behind leader Chelsea.

Arsenal came into the game with just one win in their last eight visits to Britannia Stadium, and yet seemed totally unprepared for the type of physical football Stoke is known for. Crouch scored the fastest goal of the Premier League season when Chambers tried to head away a cross but totally missed the ball, which fell to the Stoke striker in the area. With third-string goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez going to the ground too quickly, Crouch calmly slotted the ball into the net.

Olivier Giroud had a good chance to equalize but headed wide at the far post after a cross from Hector Bellerin, and Stoke continued to overpower the visitors in nearly every duel in the first half.

Bojan took advantage of more slack defending to reach another cross from the right and slot the ball underneath Martinez, and the Stoke players again showed more desire to get to the ball in a goalmouth scramble in the 45th, which ended with Walters volleying the ball into the roof of the net.

Arsenal's star striker Alexis Sanchez had a quiet game but nearly scored a spectacular goal shortly after the break when he stole the ball near the midway line, dribbled past two defenders and rounded goalkeeper Asmir Begovic only to hit the post.

Instead it was Cazorla who pulled the first goal back after Mathieu Flamini was tripped in the area. Begovic got a hand to Cazorla's penalty but could not keep it out - and two minutes later Ramsey reduced the deficit to a single goal.

Begovic produced a fine save from Welbeck but Sanchez's corner picked out Ramsey at the back post and he shot through a crowd of players.

Arsenal pushed hard for an equalizer but was reduced to 10 men 12 minutes from time when Chambers was shown a second yellow card for pulling Bojan.

And, despite putting Stoke under a lot of pressure, the comeback could not be completed.

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