Stoke City 1
Arsenal 3

Premier League

CESC FABREGAS fired Arsenal back into the title race with an inspired performance against Stoke, but the game was marred by a horrific injury to Aaron Ramsey.

The young Welshman suffered what looked to be a broken leg under a challenge from Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross, who was shown a straight red card.

The Gunners’ players were visibly distraught at the incident, which conjured terrible memories of Eduardo’s horror injury at Birmingham City two years ago.

That day is widely thought to have been the day Arsenal surrendered the title, as they crumbled to a 2-1 defeat. But Arsene Wenger’s men channelled their energy into muscling past Stoke, with Fabregas converting a 90th minute penalty, before the Spaniard set up defender Thomas Vermaelen for the third goal.

Stoke had taken the lead after just seven minutes in predictable fashion. A missile from the hands of Rory Delap was knocked on by Shawcross and Danny Pugh was on hand at the back post to nod past Manuel Almunia.

Arsenal struggled to impose themselves for the first half an hour, but they slowly began to find their passing game and they drew level with a goal not normally associated with one of Wenger’s teams.

Fabregas swung over a pinpoint cross that Nicklas Bendtner did brilliantly to divert past the outstretched hand of Thomas Sorensen.

After the break the pressure continued from the Gunners, but the game was brought to a halt when Shawcross lunged in on Ramsey.

There was no hint of intent from the defender and he left the field in tears after he had been sent off by referee Peter Walton.

Fabregas and Vermaelen looked to be two of the Arsenal players most affected by the injury, as Ramsey received extensive treatment on the pitch.

But they continued to press and should have taken the lead with four minutes to go when Eduardo was put through, only for the Croatia international to skew his shot wide.

But the pressure eventually told when Bendtner tried to lift a ball through for substitute Theo Walcott, only to be denied by the hand of goalscorer Pugh.

Having already been denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty when Ramsey was brought down by Abdoulaye Faye, Walton this time did not hesitate in pointing to the spot.

Fabregas, for the fourth consecutive time this season, placed the ball to the keeper’s left, but despite Sorensen getting his fingertips to the ball, it was too well-placed to be kept out.

With Stoke down to ten men, the game looked up, and the three points were secured when Fabregas reacted quickest to Sorensen’s parry from Tomas Rosicky’s shot, the Spaniard squaring for Vermaelen to tap in.

The result, following Chelsea’s surprise home defeat to Manchester City earlier in the day, moves the Gunners to within three points of the Blues and to two behind second-placed Manchester United, with all three teams having played 28 games.