A contentious penalty decision proved to be the turning point of Arsenal’s 3-0 win over lowly Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners scoring three late goals to push the Potters further into the relegation quagmire on Sunday.
After an indifferent first-half by the hosts, Paul Lambert’s men were firmly in the reckoning and would have backed themselves to nick an invaluable away win but their good efforts were all undone when match referee Craig Pawson awarded the North Londoners a 74th-minute penalty.
Mesut Ozil appeared to have been fouled by Bruno Martins Indi in real time but television replays suggested that the Stoke defender had got the ball first.
Despite the protests from the away side, the decision stood and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cooly fired the hosts into the lead with a low effort that sent Jack Butland the wrong way.
From the on, it seemed the floodgates had opened and as Stoke seemingly gave up the fight, Aubamayenag took advantage of some slack marking on a corner to double his tally for the night with a fine half-volley four minutes from time.
There was further drama to be witnessed, as Papa Ndiyae inexplicably barged into Alexandre Lacazette’s back while the French forward was inside the box and this time Stoke could have no complaints as they conceded a penalty for the second time in 15 minutes.
Aubameyang took the ball and gave it to his strike partner, passing up the opportunity to score his maiden hat-trick for the Gunners and Lacazette scored one to boost his sagging confidence.
In the end, the scoreline didn’t reflect the true story of the match but credit to Arsenal for stepping up when it mattered the most and they now approach their UEFA Europa League quarter-final against CSKA Moscow flush with confidence.
For Stoke, the situation is far more grim as they remain in 19th place, three points behind 17-ranked Crystal Palace.