ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Ozil delivers again as Arsenal top standings

Arsenal boss Wenger full of praise for his HK$500 million man after German plays crucial role on his home debut in victory over Stoke City

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 September, 2013, 5:07am

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Arsenal went to the top of the English Premier League table after a 3-1 victory at home to Stoke last night.

Victory left the Gunners two points in front of both Chelsea and Liverpool. But north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur had the chance to join them on 12 points when they were away to Cardiff in the late kick-off.

Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who suffered a potentially career-threatening leg injury following a poor tackle by Stoke's Ryan Shawcross three years ago, made it seven goals in eight games when he gave Arsenal a fifth-minute lead at the Emirates Stadium with a close-range strike after Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic had palmed away a Mesut Ozil free kick.

Stoke, however, were back on level terms when United States international Geoff Cameron scored his first goal for the club in the 26th minute with a controlled shot from the edge of the box after Marko Arnautovic's volley had come back off the post.

Arsenal, though, were 2-1 up before half-time through centre-back Per Mertesacker's looping header.

Bacary Sagna then scored his first goal in 19 months as Arsenal again made Stoke pay for failing to defend a set-piece when he headed home in the 72nd minute from another free-kick by £42.4 million (HK$525 million) club record signing Ozil, the Germany international producing a sparkling display on his Gunners' home debut.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was understandably delighted by Ozil's performance.

"I didn't expect to score so many headers from free kicks against Stoke, but the delivery is very important and the deliveries were good today," the Frenchman said.

"Like the team he [Ozil] gave a lot on Wednesday night [in the Champions League victory away to French side Marseille], but he showed his class today and he worked hard as well."

This was Arsenal's seventh straight win in all competitions and fourth in a row in the Premier League but Wenger was still not completely satisfied. "The confidence is there and the desire is there, and that's a very strong base. We can score goals and create chances, today in the second half we lost our usual game but in the end we won," he said.

The day hadn't started well, though, for Arsenal. Theo Walcott was named in the starting line-up but was forced to pull out before kick-off with what Arsenal called a minor pelvic and abdominal problem. "It's a bit mysterious," Wenger said.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes said his side were in the game until Sagna scored Arsenal's third goal. "The third goal really knocked the stuffing out of us and really made it difficult to get back on terms then," Hughes said.

"But up to that point I thought we were always in the game and always looking to play the right way."

Meanwhile, Swansea won 2-0 away to Crystal Palace with Michu putting the Welsh club in front in just the second minute before Nathan Dyer added a second goal shortly after half-time.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press