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Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Sunday, 24 May 2009 18:12 UK

Arsenal 4-1 Stoke

By David McIntyre

Robin van Persie celebrates with Andrei Arshavin
Van Persie (left) produced a fine display and scored twice

Robin van Persie scored twice as Arsenal ended their season in style.

Cesc Fabregas' low cross was turned into his own net by James Beattie and Van Persie then scored with a penalty after being fouled by Ryan Shawcross.

Abou Diaby headed the third and Van Persie hit the bar with a free-kick before Stoke's Ricardo Fuller netted a penalty after being fouled by Denilson.

Rory Delap's error allowed Van Persie to fire in Arsenal's fourth, with Kolo Toure then hitting the post.

All the goals came during a first half in which Stoke were totally outclassed and had to replace injured keeper Steve Simonsen with Thomas Sorensen.

At the other end, 21-year-old keeper Vito Mannone made his Arsenal debut because of injuries to Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski.

Wenger looking to improve Gunners

Stoke, who comfortably avoided relegation in their first season in the Premier League, may have fancied their chances of exploiting Mannone's inexperience - especially through Delap's notorious long throws.

Instead, Mannone produced a smart early save to deny Fuller whereas Simonsen conceded three goals and was substituted by the 20-minute mark.

Fuller had a brief sight of goal after nudging Alexandre Song off the ball, but Mannone dived at the striker's feet to snuff out the danger.

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It was an encouraging start by Stoke, but they fell behind when Fabregas combined with Van Persie at a short corner and drove the ball towards Beattie, whose own goal set the tone for a dismal afternoon for his side.

Van Persie was their chief tormentor and after being brought down in the box, he calmly slotted into the corner from the resulting penalty to make it 2-0.

And from the Dutchman's free-kick, Diaby notched his fourth goal of the season to put Arsene Wenger's men firmly in the driving seat.

Simonsen then trudged off to be replaced by Sorensen, who was also carrying an injury and looked less than comfortable but did produce a good save with his legs to deny Theo Walcott.

Stoke were given hope by a penalty from Fuller, who stroked the ball into the middle of the net after Denilson's careless challenge.

Arsenal were immediately back in the ascendancy and after Van Persie rattled the bar with a brilliant free-kick, Andrey Arshavin's attempt to score from the rebound was tipped away by Sorensen.

But Sorensen was unable to rescue his team after a terrible mistake by Delap five minutes before half-time.

Rather than complete Shawcross' half-clearance, Delap attempted to head the ball back to Sorensen and instead found Van Persie, who was able to control on his chest and volley home.

Pulis targets summer signings

Toure almost made it 5-1 before the break when he popped up in the box and shot against the outside of the near post.

Arsenal continued to dominate in the second half but were unable to add to their goal tally.

Arshavin's left-wing cross was headed wide by Van Persie, who then blazed wide following a goalmouth scramble.

Gunners substitute Emmanuel Eboue also went close when he shot wide, before crossing from the right for Diaby to miss the target with a header.

It as an impressive end to a frustrating season from the Londoners, whose fans showed their support for manager Wenger by chanting his name throughout the game.

Wenger, who had rounded on his critics ahead of this match, will have been pleased with the response of Arsenal's players and supporters.


Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on the support from Gunners fans:
"I'm pleased. It's important to know the fans stand behind you and believe in what you do.

"I have to think about how we can now improve. First of all let's keep the players we have here, and then add one or two. We don't have to spend much because we already have a good base.

"It was a good performance - very lively in the first half. We eased off in the second half, but overall we were very good.

"What was good was that it showed the team has improved. Defensively and offensively we looked a good team."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis:
"In the first half, some of the goals we conceded were laughable really. The best thing that happened to us was half-time, and we were better in the second half.

"We've had a great season. We achieved what we wanted to and this week it's been hard to keep the players going, and they were a bit off it in the first half.

"We now have to get players in and improve every aspect of the club, and that's what we'll be doing."


Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna (Eboue 57), Toure, Song Billong, Gibbs, Diaby, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin (Vela 71), van Persie, Walcott (Bendtner 46).
Subs Not Used: Szczesny, Ramsey, Silvestre, Djourou.

Booked: Denilson.

Goals: Beattie 10 og, van Persie 16 pen, Diaby 18, van Persie 41.

Stoke: Simonsen (Sorensen 21), Wilkinson, Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Dickinson, Lawrence, Diao (Pugh 64), Whelan, Delap, Beattie, Fuller (Cresswell 69).
Subs Not Used: Olofinjana, Kelly, Tonge, Sonko.

Goals: Fuller 31 pen.

Att: 60,082

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match:
Arsenal's Robin van Persie 8.01 (on 90 minutes)

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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see also
Live text - Premier League
24 May 09 |  Football
Premier League photos
24 May 09 |  Premier League


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